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· Sic Semper Tyrannis
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Thread concerning development and large projects in the Star City. This thread will also be inclusive of large projects located throughout rural Southwest Virginia.

Downtown Roanoke: On a Major Grow from Within and to the East and South
by Dan Smith May 8, 2014

Nathan Vaught credits speedy permits from the city for some of the downtown success.

A tenfold increase over the past decade in the number of people living downtown is emblematic of the multiple multi-million-dollar projects that have vaulted the city’s core into an exciting and perhaps unprecedented growth spurt.

Couple of important points you need to know:

Since 2010, Roanoke City’s population has grown by two percent, which turns the Weldon-Cooper Center projection of a decrease on its head. For the first time since the 1980s, Roanoke will have 100,000 people in the very near future. That means more than you might imagine. Many of those new people are moving downtown and re-making that long-quiet portion of the city. As one developer said recently, “I want buildings that have the lights on 24 hours a day.” That’s coming.

The projects have been so numerous in recent years that they have been disruptive. They’ve caused merchants to complain and long-time visitors to head for the mall, but they haven’t discouraged those who want to live downtown. Just a few years ago – a decade – there were 114 people living in downtown Roanoke. There are 1,400 right now with several new housing projects near completion that could bump that number up to 2,000 in a year or so. Builders don’t even know what the saturation point is, but they know they’re not close to it yet.

As residents move in, services follow and creatives plan what’s next. Press-shy Ed Walker and his Small City (X)po crowd continue to “vision” and to build on that vision, while John Garland re-purposes an old cafeteria as a true civic center. A small group of young developers renovates buildings nobody else wants and young people move in. Center in the Square and the City Market Building spend a ton of money on upgrades and a big new amphitheater opens for the spring season. The Roanoke River Greenway grows in coverage almost daily and in use by the hour. The Taubman Museum opens its galleries for free. A snazzy new library is planned at the cap of Jefferson Street and former City Manager Bern Ewert’s huge living project to the south, near Virginia Tech Carilion, will likely expand the definition of downtown, as a couple of projects on the west end have already done. Pressure to sell and renovate the long empty, 90,000-square-foot Heironimus building grows.

It’s disruptive, dynamic, exciting, confusing, and ultimately Roanokers will decide if it is successful. So far, they seem to have bought in, especially with downtown living.

Says Roanoke City Planning Director Chris Chittum: “In the 2001 city plan, we saw the value of historic tax credits for rehabilitation of old buildings. … If we hadn’t done that, [the buildings] would have been frozen in time. All this development has been driven by the 45 percent tax credits.” The city’s Redevelopment & Housing Authority planted the seed by renovating the old Norfolk & Western Building at 8 Jefferson Place.

City Manager Chris Morrill: “We’ve tried to make it comfortable to invest [in downtown]. There is a lot of pent up demand.”

Read more:

· Sic Semper Tyrannis
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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Virginia Tech president says university's impact on Roanoke economy likely to grow.

Virginia Tech President Charles Steger in Roanoke

Virginia Tech has had a major impact on the economy of the Roanoke Valley, and Tech President Charles Steger says the relationship is only going to grow.

Steger said the partnership has already proven itself in projects such as the renovation of the Hotel Roanoke, and the creation of the Virgina Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute. And he said he believes the economic impact of the university is going to accelerate.

" I know at our corporate research center we've got 160 companies," Steger told WDBJ7 in an interview, "and we're getting a labor pool of high technology people and we're at a critical mass where I think the speed at which it's going to develop is going to grow. "

Steger is set to retire at the end of the month.

He said the university and Roanoke now understand that both are stronger when they're working together.

Copyright © 2014, WDBJ7


More images of the new Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine now in downtown Roanoke. Carilion/IMG_2337.JPG


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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
Roanoke and Southwest Virginia's only mixed-used development: The Bridges.

Project & Construction update- May, 2014

The Bridges developer talks about vision for Roanoke as it compares to Rocketts Landing in Richmond

Downtown Roanoke features shopping, restaurants and markets.

(Check out this video for more info and some good views of the site/downtown.)

Project leaders for The Bridges development along Jefferson Street hope to successfully connect the center of Roanoke with Carilion Clinic's campus, the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and the Roanoke River.

Regarding the Roanoke project, Vickers-Smith says, "We hope that it will take as little as five years, but ten years is probably a more realistic time frame. It is about seven hundred thousand square feet of product."

The much larger Rocketts Landing development brought life back to the old port part of the James River. It incorporates a community that was transformed from industrial property into neighborhood living with a total of sixty acres and three million square feet to use.

He explains, "One of the things that we do is try to make authentic projects."

The goal even in the earliest stages of the WVS Roanoke project is to re-purpose old industrial buildings and incorporate new construction along with architecture that is similar to surrounding neighborhoods.

Rocketts Landing has three hundred condos and a handful of town homes. There are three restaurants including Conch Republic that features outdoor dining with Richmond about a mile away in the distance.

Vickers-Smith has a vision for Roanoke that includes incorporating views of Mill Mountain Star into construction.

He says, "It has a real heritage. There are industrial buildings that are left that can be re-purposed to make it authentic."

There's that word again to describe what will become of this twenty acre tract of land, a piece of property that hopes to connect many growing aspects of the Roanoke Valley.

Here are some more pics of the development. Corporation Building.jpg?format=1500w Mountain View.jpg?format=300w

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I'm a fan of what they did with Rockett's Landing, so I'm definitely excited. I agree, the location is prime....right across from the new medical school, adjacent to downtown, and with great views of the Mill Mountain Star.

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Amtrak Coming Back to Roanoke After 30+ Years of Absence

Lynchburg-Roanoke Amtrak rail service agreement announced

Posted: Thursday, January 9, 2014 11:16 am
Ray Reed

Gov. Bob McDonnell on Thursday announced a signed agreement between the state and Norfolk Southern Corp. to improve tracks and build a station to extend Amtrak passenger-rail service from Lynchburg to Roanoke.
The agreement means Amtrak service to Roanoke will begin no later than fall 2017, said Abigail Sigler, spokeswoman for McDonnell. It would be the first time in 34 years that Roanoke has had Amtrak service.

Rail service from Lynchburg to Roanoke is funded in Virginia’s six-year transportation plan, but state officials and Norfolk Southern were studying the track and signal upgrades needed to safely handle passenger traffic.
Virginia will provide $92.7 million to cover the total project cost, Sigler said.
Included in the cost is $10 million to help Roanoke build a station, platform and track, including terminal train storage and a servicing facility, Sigler said.
“The city of Roanoke is responsible for the station building and parking facilities,” she said.

Under a separate agreement, Virginia is providing $3 million toward the estimated $6 million cost of a culvert to carry the Trout Run stream beneath the proposed station platform and track facility in Roanoke.
“With the signing of this agreement, the state will be able to extend Amtrak Virginia daily intercity passenger train service to Roanoke within four years with direct, same-seat service to as far north as Boston,” said Thelma Drake, director of Virginia’s Department of Rail and Public Transportation.
The last passenger train pulled out of Roanoke 34 years ago, but the Star City has operated a bus connection to the Lynchburg train for two years. In 2013, its average ridership was about 21 riders each way daily, according to Drake’s presentation to a Roanoke business group in October.
The riders pay a $4 fare.

“Intercity passenger rail service is central to the Commonwealth’s economic growth, vitality and competitiveness in the region. Now the major population centers will have intercity passenger rail service,” McDonnell said in a statement.

Prior to the line’s approval, the town of Bedford had been in contact with Virginia Department of Rails and Public Transportation officials asking consideration for a stop in the town.
“I think it would be helpful for economic development,” said Bedford Town Manager Charles Kolakowski. “Certainly it would be a nice service for the residents in the area.”
In December, the Bedford County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution supporting the request for consideration, even though DPRT had stated “there are currently no plans for additional stations between Roanoke and Lynchburg or beyond.”
With the Lynchburg to Roanoke connection a go, Kolakowski said the town will continue to pursue the possibility, but no new action is in the works.
“We’re going to continue to do what we can and gather information and talk to people,” he said.

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Center in the Square: 'We're a destination again'


Students from Gilbert Linkous Elementary School in Blacksburg walk past the entrance to "Tutankhamun: Wonderful Things from Pharaoh's Tomb" last week at the Science Museum of Western Virginia at Center in the Square.

Posted: Sunday, June 22, 2014 12:15 am
By Mike Allen | The Roanoke Times

During Bonnie Huffman’s first ever visit to Center in the Square, she held up her 4-year-old daughter, Laurel, for a closer look at the turtles inside the aquarium.

Earlier, she’d taken Laurel and her young cousins to visit the butterfly garden in the Science Museum of Western Virginia.

“I’m proud of Roanoke for providing this,” she said. “Even though the butterfly exhibit is gorgeous, I’m almost thinking that these fish tanks, these turtles, are even more awesome. I’ll bring my husband with me next time.”
The main building of Center in the Square in downtown Roanoke reopened in May 2013 after a $28 million renovation. A year later, the Center and its main attractions — the Science Museum of Western Virginia, the History Museum of Western Virginia, the Harrison Museum of African American Culture and Mill Mountain Theatre — have endured some bumpy rides, but all of them have had triumphs to celebrate, too.

Before the renovations, “we had a theater that closed. We had outdated exhibits and museums,” said Center vice president of development Julee Goodman. “The trip is much more exciting now. We have so much to offer.”
On a recent Friday, a mother and son from West Virginia said they were directed to Center by the Roanoke Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau, while proud grandparents from North Carolina had come to see their granddaughter rehearse for Mill Mountain Theatre’s upcoming production of “The Wizard of Oz.”

“I like the color. I like the fish,” said Meg Bowman, 51, of Martinsburg, West Virginia, who was visiting with her 16-year-old son Zach. She noted how the jellyfish and seahorse tanks enrapture children. “You can see how the kids are standing up on the stools.”

“There’s just traffic and there’s life and there’s energy in the building,” said Ginger Poole, the theater’s producing managing director. “We’re a destination again.”

Here’s what the first year post-renovation has brought — or hasn’t brought — for Center and its tenants.

Center in the Square
First opened in 1983, Center in the Square provides low-cost or rent-free housing to its member art organizations. By the early 2000s, Center and the museums it housed no longer received state funding, and its own facilities were in need of an upgrade when renovation plans were first announced in 2007. The $28 million project proceeded in stages over three years, with Center’s nonprofit tenants needing to find temporary homes and keep business going before moving back in 2013.

For visitors, the six large aquariums in the formerly empty atrium make the most obvious immediate visual difference. They require about $150,000 a year to maintain, though a donation of equipment and supplies from United Pet Group of $56,000 a year for five years is assisting with that cost, Center vice president Goodman said. Plans for an education program built around the aquariums haven’t come together yet. “We’re not going to pull the trigger until we have the funds to sustain it,” she said.

The much talked-about rooftop restaurant never came to pass, though Center has provided the space with a kitchen full of catering equipment and earns revenue from rentals. Center is no longer actively searching for a rooftop restaurant tenant. “It would take a unique restaurant,” Goodman said.
“The view is fantastic from up here, the view of the town and the mountains around,” said Jason Hopper, a 23-year-old visitor from North Carolina.
Center underwent a change in leadership that proved surprisingly brief. Center’s president and general manager, Jim Sears, retired in December after 20 years on the job, passing the reigns to former SunTrust Bank executive Barry Henderson — who stepped down suddenly at the end of May. Sears returned to his old job and said he expects to stay on a few more years.
Both Sears and Center board chairman George Cartledge Jr. say they don’t know why Henderson left, though Cartledge said the parting was not acrimonious. Henderson has not returned phone calls seeking comment.
“We now need to focus all of our energy on providing service to the public,” Sears said. “As long as Center can maintain and reasonably increase its donor base, then we’re doing fine.”

Science Museum of Western Virginia

The Science Museum’s new butterfly garden was touted just as often as Center’s aquariums as a big new attraction for the downtown institution. But the revelation that it would cost $1,000 per week to purchase new pupae raised concerns about whether the museum could maintain the expense.
As it turns out, despite some problems emerging from the cocoon, the butterfly garden is paying for itself, said museum executive director Jim Rollings. Though it may take another year for the garden to reach the level of liveliness and variety the museum envisions, it’s a successful attraction.
Yet the museum has been thrown curve balls from other directions. Rollings once anticipated having an operating budget of $1.2 million, but the museum’s actual operating budget had to be trimmed to $830,000. He doesn’t think the museum can cut back any further.

The science museum ended up reducing its regular admission fee by about half not long after reopening because most of the planned permanent galleries weren’t set up. One year later, the problem continues. The walk-through digestive system exhibit meant to be the museum’s main showpiece still hasn’t been built.

The problem, Rollings said, is that Exhibit IQ, the Nevada company the museum paid to make the exhibit, ran into financial difficulties and hasn’t followed through on its contract. To be fair, he said, “they were trying to do work for the science museum on a shoestring” to cut the museum a break, but “the economy in general pulled the rug out from under them.”
This left the science museum in the lurch, though Rollings said the company has told him they intend to complete the work. He’s hopeful that the missing exhibit pieces will arrive before the end of the year.
Stuck without their main exhibits, the staff pursued creative programming. Rollings summarized their mission this way: “We must do something that changes the focus and the conversation from what isn’t on our floor to the notion of how much we are doing to serve the region.”
Their brainstorming led to events such as “Star Wars & Origami Yoda Night” in March, when best-selling local children’s author Tom Angleberger held a well-attended book signing. In May, the museum announced that seed money from a $10,000 matching grant allowed them to found the statewide Virginia Science Festival, scheduled to launch in October. The museum is organizing the festival in partnership with Virginia Tech.
On June 14 the science museum raised its admission fees to coincide with the opening of the traveling exhibition “Tutankhamun: Wonderful Things from the Pharaoh’s Tomb,” a collection of replicas of objects associated with the legendary archaeological find. Though the museum hopes the show will be a big draw, there’s a practical reason for raising the rates: The exhibit rental will be paid for directly out of the admission fee, an arrangement that includes a price break for the museum.
Exhibition creator Alberto Acosta worked with Rollings before and was willing to barter a mutually beneficial deal. “It’s a favor from one friend to another,” Acosta said.
He noted that the science museum appearance marks the show’s debut in Virginia.
Despite the aforementioned problems, science museum membership has more than doubled, from 400 households in 2012 to 1,000 households now. “People genuinely love belonging to the science museum,” said spokesman Michael Hemphill.
History Museum of Western Virginia
The Historical Society of Western Virginia had a reputation for being one of Roanoke’s more secure nonprofits, so it came as a shock when the organization faced a crisis after Center’s grand reopening. The society operates the History Museum of Western Virginia and the O. Winston Link Museum, which is housed in the former Norfolk and Western passenger station, another building owned by Center.
With a fundraising campaign having fallen short, the society took out a $1.1 million loan to pay for the history museum’s new permanent exhibition, “Crossroads of History,” then found itself in a cash crunch. In June 2013 the society laid off its executive director and development director to offset a $20,000 monthly deficit. The society eventually used $700,000 from its $950,000 endowment to pay off the loan.
Society president Bill Honeycutt said the nonprofit is no longer in dangerous waters. “I’m real comfortable with our financial condition.” Eventually, he said, the society will launch a campaign to rebuild its endowment. “We want to be sure and plan ours carefully.”
The society has raised membership rates, however. Honeycutt said the fees were adjusted to match similar museum setups elsewhere in the country.
The $500,000 operating budget the society board just approved includes about $10,000 for marketing. “Last year we had zero money to market with,” Honeycutt said.
As with the science museum, the historical society has put a lot of effort into new programming ideas. A talk by noted Civil War historian Bud Robertson was a sellout, as was an “Antiques Roadshow”-style appraisal event.
The history museum’s traveling exhibition space held one show for an entire year, though it was a spectacular one, the Virginia Historical Society’s state-of-the-art interactive “An American Turning Point: The Civil War in Virginia.” Honeycutt said exhibits to come will be smaller and rotate more frequently. Next up will be a dulcimer exhibition with artifacts from the Blue Ridge Institute in Ferrum, and the society hopes to hold special concerts that complement the show.
Other exhibits will be drawn from the society’s extensive collection of artifacts. The first, which ties into the “Roaring ’20s,” will include a special collaboration with Mill Mountain Theatre in August. If all goes as planned, patrons will need to knock on the back door to the museum and give a secret password to be admitted to the performance, just like at a speakeasy, Honeycutt said.
Harrison Museum of African American Culture
The Harrison Museum of African American Culture had perhaps the steepest hill to climb as the attraction reopened. The notion that the 29-year-old museum would become a tenant of Center had been on the table for about five years when it closed its northwest Roanoke location in 2010. The Harrison existed as a “museum without walls” until the grand opening in 2013. The nonprofit is run entirely by volunteers.
Board president Charles Price has described the museum’s progress as a careful learning process. The Harrison has successfully landed grants and sponsorships and hopes to eventually grow large enough to once again hire staff.
Price is often reluctant to discuss future plans for the Harrison in depth because he wants to keep community expectations realistic. Leaders in Roanoke’s black community appear to be pleased by the museum’s progress. In May, the Roanoke branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People presented Price with a Citizen of the Year award for Lifetime Achievement, also noting his efforts as an entrepreneur, civic activist and member of other local boards.
Price said the museum is gearing up for September, when the nonprofit’s biggest fundrasing event, the Henry Street Heritage Festival, will celebrate its 25th anniversary.
The Harrison Museum’s most recent exhibition, “The Spirit That Knows Beauty,” a collection of artifacts and art from Africa and the African diaspora, will stay on display beyond the original July 30 expiration date. Today the museum opens a new exhibition, “And All That Jazz,” a photo essay about jazz, R&B and gospel music. The photographer, Virginia Tech sociology professor Wornie Reed, will speak at the museum today at 3 p.m. to kick off the new show. Admission to his lecture is $10.
Mill Mountain Theatre
Mill Mountain Theatre underwent a debt crisis in 2009 that caused it to cancel its season and lay off all but one employee. The theater has been making a carefully planned, incremental comeback ever since, which perhaps gave it an advantage while riding the ups and downs of the Center remodel.
“We had trained ourselves to get by even when the money wasn’t coming in,” said director Ginger Poole. “The timing was naturally on our side and in our favor.”
Even once Mill Mountain returned to the Trinkle Main Stage inside Center’s main building, they opened with what Poole called a “soft opening season” of three shows, gradually warming up to larger productions. The four plays scheduled in 2014 were “really the first full season that we offered in five years.”
Under MMT’s new business model, “each show must stand on its own financially or we won’t produce it.”
So far so good: The first show in the theater’s new season, “Swing!” — a 1940s song and dance revue — was a sellout smash. “We had a great time doing it, and the audience just loved it,” Poole said. “I honestly think I could have run that another week and it would have sold out again.”

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Consultant ponders chance for train-bus center in downtown Roanoke

A newly hired consultant will work out how the downtown Roanoke site will function.

The spot picked for Roanoke’s new passenger rail platform is about a minute’s walk from the outdated city bus station, which has spawned talk of a future joint-purpose passenger facility.
What might that look like? Could it be a transportation match made in heaven?

That’s for a newly hired consultant to figure out.

Wendel Architecture of Richmond will forecast train ridership, evaluate the bus station and develop concepts for an intermodal transportation center. It could go at the bus station known as the Campbell Court Transportation Facility or at any other workable site nearby. In addition, the consultant will explore adding space for taxis and setting up a bike sharing service.
The Wendel team began work in September. Its final report is due April 1, for which it will be paid $284,387.

At least one public meeting is planned as Wendel gathers string. Details of the time or place aren’t out yet.
Passenger trains served downtown until 1979. Amtrak intends to reinstitute the service using the tracks of Norfolk Southern Corp. by September 2017 at the latest, according to the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation. A tentative schedule released earlier this year says the train would depart Roanoke at 6:19 a.m. and reach Union Station in Washington, D.C., at 11:20 a.m. You could come back that afternoon. The service is available from Lynchburg now.

Preparations are being made for the return of passenger rail service downtown. Jennifer Mitchell, the head of the rail transportation agency, will give some of those particulars from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Nov. 10 at the O. Winston Link Museum downtown. It will be a town hall-style meeting hosted by state Sen. John Edwards titled “Amtrak Is Coming To Roanoke!”
City officials have said a boarding platform should be in place by January 2017 south of the tracks near Norfolk Avenue and underneath the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bridge. It will be 850 feet long and 16 feet wide, a tentative plan said.

Roanoke has the option of adding a passenger station to the platform. It’s too soon to say what such an improvement might cost, where the money would come from or whether such a facility will ever happen. The new report is expected to help figure that out.

Campbell Court is already a transportation and commercial hub, with such tenants as Greater Roanoke Transit Co.’s Valley Metro bus service, the Smart Way commuter bus, Greyhound, off-street parking and thousands of square feet of vacant office and retail space.

Roanoke has “an opportunity for a multimodal transportation facility,” the city said in retaining Wendel Architecture, “that arises from the proximity of the selected locations of the future rail platform, GRTC’s current transit hub at Campbell Court and the relationship of both to other transportation modes.”
Between Campbell Court and the tracks is a privately owned lot with about 150 parking spaces, online records show. John Lampros, the person listed as the lot’s owner, could not be reached for comment.

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Hampton Inn rises on the downtown Roanoke skyline

Construction continues on new Hampton Inn and Suites atop Roanoke's Market Garage downtown, seen from the roof of the former Colonial Arms building at Campbell Avenue and South Jefferson Street. The 120-room hotel will add three stories to the six-story parking garage. The $17 million project is being developed by South Carolina-based Windsor/Aughtry Co. and constructed by Tennessee-based Pride Construction. The project is slated to open later this year.

The future Hampton Inn and Suites atop Roanoke’s Market Garage is beginning to take shape. Work started last summer on the three-story addition atop the parking garage at 25 Church Ave. S.E. The $17 million project by Windsor/Aughtry Co. represents the first new hotel built in downtown Roanoke in decades. It is scheduled to open later this year.,390

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Consultant sketches vision for downtown Roanoke transit hub

By Jeff Sturgeon [email protected] 981-3251

Roanoke could someday have a bustling new transportation hub in downtown that’s much more than a place to catch the bus or train, a consultant told city leaders Monday.

In the most expansive vision, it would be a setting where people would shop, work and live, within walking distance of Amtrak passenger train service and bus service furnished by Valley Metro and Greyhound. The city could shift most costs to federal grants and private development, while giving itself an economic booster shot, according to the vision.

Ronald Reekes of Wendel Architecture has spent months devising a multimodal transportation plan for downtown Roanoke, and this was his first public report. Reporting on results of a study for which the city paid the Richmond firm $284,000, he told the Roanoke City Council that his vision would give transit a new image and new facilities in Roanoke.

It’s all pegged to the announcement, a year and a half ago, that Amtrak and the state plan to start passenger train service to and from Roanoke by fall 2017. The state has pledged more than $90 million to the project.

By the time the train pulls up to a future boarding platform on Norfolk Avenue, the city is supposed to have passenger facilities in place — either temporary, which is the way the city is leaning, or permanent.
Reekes said he expects the train to carry 65,000 passengers to and from Roanoke, or about 180 per day, in the first year, and “you can probably expect that to grow substantially,” he said.

A temporary Amtrak office could probably suffice for 2017 and some time after, but only as a placeholder, according to city officials.
As a longer-term plan, Reekes suggested building combined bus-train facilities. He suggested the city replace its partially enclosed bus terminal on Campbell Avenue with canopied waiting platforms outdoors on an adjacent surface parking lot on Salem Avenue. A developer, probably a private one subject to real estate taxes, could gut the existing bus station, the Campbell Court Transportation Facility, whose ground-level boarding area Reekes called “dark” and “dank.” That would position the municipal complex, whose upstairs office and retail spaces are vacant, for redevelopment with stores, offices and housing, Reekes said.

In addition, the plan depicts a new transportation station for passenger waiting and ticket sales near the future train boarding platform and proposed bus boarding area, which would require tearing down a parking garage. Amtrak would have offices there, and Amtrak’s train crew would sleep there overnight. More stores and offices could go in there, if the city invested in additional space and could land tenants. One image depicts that structure rising four stories tall and connected by a foot bridge to the redeveloped Campbell Court. If the city preserves some parking at the project site, people could park there or in private lots nearby, Reekes said.

Council members took no action. City Manager Chris Morrill said major construction is at least three years away. Reekes said he would hand in the final version of his report in two or three weeks. He hasn’t estimated the cost of any aspect of his vision. City officials have not released a project cost, but there are indications it will be expensive. Just getting land on which to establish future transit facilities could cost $3.2 million, the city said in a grant application.

The state made a tentative decision to provide $465,000.
“I think this is a real opportunity for the community to talk about what is it that we value in terms of how people get around, aesthetics, our urban core, how we connect people together,” Morrill said. He emphasized that transit has changed since the last time the city built a transit station, which was Campbell Court in 1987, and that the project requires a fresh look at how people walk, bike and use public transit and the latest station concepts.
“Don’t think of it is as what Campbell Court is right now [and] just moving it somewhere,” Morrill said.

Council member Court Rosen quizzed Reekes on some of the details.
Rosen said later he supports moving the bus station away from Campbell Court, but has doubts about using what he called one of the last surface parking lots and one prime for development. He described himself as having “lots and lots of questions that need answers.”

“We are not Alexandria,” he said during the meeting, in asking for reasons to hope for a retail surge at Campbell Court where none is happening now. New transit facilities spur economic activity, while old ones retard it, Reekes said. In addition, more millennials, often defined as those younger than 35, are riding public transit than ever before, Reekes added.
Rosen asked whether millennials ride Valley Metro. Morrill said he didn’t know, nor did any Valley Metro officials in the audience speak up with the answer. Morrill said he would find out.
Rosen said he welcomed that input. “We want to make sure this fits our ridership,” he said.

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Developer seeks to build 324-unit apartment complex in Roanoke

A North Carolina-based developer wants to build an eight-building, 324-unit apartment complex on Orange Avenue that would be among the largest in the Roanoke Valley.

Blue Ridge Companies, based in High Point, is seeking a rezoning of a mostly undeveloped group of parcels totaling about 18 acres on the north side of Orange Avenue, just east of Gus Nicks Boulevard.

The plan continues an apartment building boom the city has seen in recent years, mostly with renovations of downtown buildings but also including a new 70- to 80-unit apartment building under construction on Williamson Road.
But at a time when downtown living, mixed-use developments and walkable communities are the buzz in the rental business, Blue Ridge seeks to build a more traditional complex of four-story buildings that surround a clubhouse, pool and other amenities. Rent will start at about $800 for a one-bedroom unit and range up to about $1,100 for a limited number of three-bedroom apartments.

The company owns and manages numerous complexes, most of which are in North Carolina and South Carolina but include The Orchards on U.S. 220 Alternate in Roanoke County.

Jim Grdich, vice president of development for the company, is confident this development will work.
“I think we’ve just enjoyed a good relationship with Roanoke as far as The Orchards go,” he said. He believes the development will draw in young professionals and empty nesters with the on-site amenities. Not everyone wants to live downtown, he said.
“They’ve done a market study. They know the market is there,” said Maryellen Goodlatte, attorney for Blue Ridge for its rezoning application. Most of the land is currently zoned for large-scale commercial use, such as a big-box retailer like Wal-Mart. Blue Ridge seeks to rezone it for mixed use, which allows for residential use.

According to renderings in Blue Ridge’s application, the buildings will be less than 50 feet tall. Grdich said the mix will include roughly 135 one-bedroom apartments, 150 two-bedroom units and 38 three-bedroom apartments.

The first phase of five buildings contains 216 apartments and should be done in 15 or 16 months, Grdich said. The second phase will follow as demand allows.
Fully built, the complex will be among the largest complexes in the valley. Pebble Creek in Roanoke County offers more than 450 apartments, while neighboring Honeywood has 300. Many of the large complexes in the valley offer about 100 units.
The development will have two entrances, both on Orange Avenue and aligned with existing cuts in the median strip, according to the plan. Turn lanes will be added to reduce traffic back-ups. Goodlatte said the city’s transportation engineers have approved that plan.

Neighbors on and near Daleton Boulevard Northeast, which forms the northern boundary of the parcel, raised concerns about traffic coming out of the back of the development and into their neighborhood.
The plan shows no entrances or exits to Daleton, a response to neighbors’ concerns, Goodlatte said.
Some neighbors also worried about drainage, but the development has to pass muster for not overburdening the storm water drainage system in the area, Goodlatte said. It includes nine basins to retain and clean stormwater.

The Wildwood Civic League supports the plan. The potential for large-scale retail development on the land, with traffic into the neighborhood allowed by right, is less appealing than the apartment complex, said Chris Craft, president of the civic league.
“It’ll bring more livelihood to the neighborhood, more income,” Craft said.
Goodlatte said it would be a “great thing” for that area of the city.
“It’s going to enhance and provide customers to businesses already on Orange Avenue,” she said.

She has high hopes the plan will win approval.
The Roanoke Planning Commission will host a public hearing on the proposal at 1:30 p.m. Monday. The Roanoke City Council will likely consider it following a public hearing at its 7 p.m. meeting July 20.

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It has been a while since the last posting in the Roanoke development thread and a number of new projects have taken shape in downtown Roanoke. The explosion of apartments in downtown Roanoke has been noticeable and exciting and the number of apartments available downtown has almost tripled since 2010 from 441 units to 1,200 units today:

The beautifully restored Art Deco Ponce De Leon apartments features 90 apartment units:

Gramercy Row, which is a new build apartment complex, is set to open soon and will feature 85 new apartments:

60 units in Locker Room Lofts opened in October of 2015 and filled up fast. This building used to be a YMCA:

120-room Hampton Inn and Suites Hotel nears completion:

The new $1.1 million Market Square renovation looks amazing:

Lastly, Amtrak still on track to come in 2017:


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72 loft apartments coming to downtown

The Lofts at West Station in downtown Roanoke is about to begin phase II which will bring 72 more loft apartments and 5,300 square feet of commercial space to 403 Salem Ave in downtown Roanoke.

Here is Phase I (Phase II will be located in the building directly to the left of this):

Interestingly, the article makes mention of 416 Micro Farms across the street which is a an urban live-grow sustainable community under development across the street from The Lofts at West Station.

With Beamer's 25 restaurant and bar now open at the ground level of The Lofts at West Station Phase I and 150 new units either completed, underway, or about to start, the whole area around 400 Salem Ave is starting to look amazing.

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Roanoke Amtrak Station Update

Construction on the new Roanoke Amtrak station in downtown continues on schedule with the completion of a new $4.9 million Amtrak train servicing station/parking area. Work on the $10.9 million station platform is set to begin in the coming months with overall completion of the station and start of services in late 2017. The train is an extension of the Northeast Regional line which currently serves Lynchburg to New York daily.

Interestingly, the Town of Bedford (pop 6,600) halfway between Lynchburg and Roanoke has studied the feasibility and potential ridership of having a station there so a stop in Bedford may be on the horizon too:

February 14th Update: Work has officially begun on the $11 million Amtrak Platform in downtown Roanoke and will take about 10 months to complete!!

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Deschutes Tasting Room Opens

The Deschutes Brewery Tasting Room opened yesterday in downtown Roanoke to a huge crowd. The new tasting room is 4,700 square feet and will serve specialty brews only found at the site. The much larger Deschutes $85 million 49-acre east coast brewery is slated to open in 2021. With the recent opening of the $48 million Ballast Point east coast brewery just outside Roanoke in June this year the craft beer scene is exploding in Roanoke!

Ballast Point Brewery and Tasting Room:


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Roanoke Amtrak Station Progress

The Roanoke Amtrak station and platform is progressing nicely and is on track to open in November. It will be the last station on the Roanoke-Lynchburg-Charlottesville-DC Northeast Regional Route and the first passenger rail service in Roanoke since 1961! The Lynchburg to DC Northeast Regional Corridor has been one of the most successful routes in the country and is one of only a few Amtrak services to make a profit.

Source: RVTV3:

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Virginia Tech and Carilion Clinic will be expanding their research institute in downtown Roanoke with a major new $90 million facility which will be home to 25 additional research teams, hundreds of students and faculty and an oncology center for dogs and cats.

All aboard!!! Excitement as Roanoke celebrated the return of passenger rail after 38-year hiatus to the Star City today with regular Amtrak service starting tomorrow. The new downtown station platform came at a cost of $13.3 million and is expected to add 34,000 passengers to the Northeast Corridor which as of today will run daily trains from Roanoke to NYC.

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