Roanoke City braces for community development block grant cuts - FOX 21/27 WFXR Roanoke/WWCW Lynchburg News, Weather

Roanoke City braces for community development block grant cuts

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Last year, Roanoke City revealed plans to revitalize the west end part of the city.  Since then, The West End Center received a community development block grant to buy the Villa Sorenta restaurant, and turn it into a community market and center, and add Freedom First Credit Union. Joy Parish, the executive director of the center, says it was the money they needed. 

"Absolutely critical to the revitalization of this neighborhood, and I don't think it could happen without the block grants," says Parish.

Keith Holland is in charge of handling community block grants for the city, which has been a challenge with so many cuts.  

Last year, money for them was cut 12 percent down to $1.4 million, and he expects them to be slashed another 15 percent this year, and another 5 percent because of sequestration. The grants are important in building affordable housing, which will take a hit, but also community development, a key component to revitalizing the west end.  

"You would see a lot less in terms of new affordable housing in the city, you would see fewer infrastructure projects, new sidewalks, repairs to sidewalks, street improvements, and streetscapes," says Holland. 

Recently, Roanoke valley leaders discussed the importance of industrial parks at a regional economic summit. Holland says these grants often help prepare those sites for businesses, such as grading pads and putting in broadband. However, all of that might get put on hold this year. 

"We are going to have to weigh the cost benefit. Economic development may be something we are not able to put as much emphasis in as we would like to normally," says Holland. 

And there is some question of how far the money will be able to go if cuts continue to happen.

"They are cutting it to the bone to make the money work and have the impact it should," says Holland.