Friday, December 18, 2009

Downtown Roanoke Development Part I - November, 2009

Many cities around the country have undergone a renaissance of downtown living, entertainment and recreation in the past decade. The rising costs of commuting and peripheral living combined with an increased focus on making downtown areas safe and desireable has begun to reverse the trend of the "edge city" and shift the national momentum back towards downtown living. Census data shows, for the first time in decades, an upward trend in population growth in urban areas compared to the suburbs. The positive externalities associated with this growth are various, but can be generally agreed upon as good. For example, living in more dense, walkable neighborhoods reduces vehicle miles traveled to and from work etc., increases health and wellbeing, and allows a social fabric to develop among people that otherwise might not have met. These issues all have their detractors, but it is this author's opinion that good planning and proper policy can make downtown areas extremely enjoyable places to live, work and play.

As a place near and dear to my heart, I have decided to document some projects in Roanoke, Virginia to illustrate what I mean by a "downtown renaissance". I recently toured the downtown Roanoke area to compile a photo-documentary of recent development that is transforming the personality of the urban core. As there are currently too many exciting projects in downtown Roanoke to write about here, I will set several qualifications for a project to make this particular entry.

* The project must be in downtown Roanoke or an associated neighborhood.
* The project must be funded primarily with private investment.
* The project must represent a radical change from the building/place's previous use.
* The project must contribute in a meaningful way to Roanoke's sense of place.

The following photos provide a taste of what is happening and its potential implications to the downtown urban fabric.