Roanoke Mayor David Bowers will touch on a lot of topics during Friday's State of the City Address. There is no question there is a lot to talk about when it comes to both public and private development projects located in various parts of Roanoke.
In fact, Roanoke has more than a dozen public and private developments going on right now. It is the most development activity since Roanoke City Manager Chris Morrill started working three and a half years ago. He says when he started the recession was at its lowest point.
He believes a focus on the future is what is needed for continued growth. "We have really tried to concentrate on what we are," he says, "not what we aren't or what we could have been."
He believes the Bridges project across from V.T.C. School of Medicine is just one of many major economic drivers.
"That is probably going to be an eight- to ten-year build out," he says. "It is really exciting because it will connect downtown to the river, which is huge for us."
Another huge project is the Elmwood Park Amphitheater. The first show is scheduled for Oct. 19. It will feature the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra and Southwest Virginia Ballet. The show will be free for the community. Community involvement is a big focus of projects that use tax dollars. The hope for all of the projects is to continue the momentum for economic growth.
"We are trying to make strategic investments throughout the core downtown and neighborhoods to help keep that going," Morrill says.
Using federal money in a targeted way is part of Roanoke's strategy. Several neighborhood improvement projects have been successful, including Jackson Park in Southeast Roanoke. Right now, some of that federal money is being funneled to the west end of the city with projects that encourage private investors to be a part of positive change.
The West End Community Center is an example of both public and private money working toward revitalization. A pre-construction meeting is schedule for Tuesday, Aug. 27, at the site. Freedom First Credit Union is a big part of the project.
"It is a big deal to get banking services in some of our more challenged neighborhoods," Morrill says. "It important to help people get into the banking system."
The sale of the old health department building to Ed Walker, who has a good track record for development in the city, is another example of using private money to help with public growth.
Meanwhile, Valley Bank still owns the old Ukrops building on Franklin Road. Morrill says he believes the Bridges development and Carilion's growth will make that location more marketable.
Even with all of the projects going on now, it appears there are more exciting moments in Roanoke's near future.
"Our team is pretty busy, but it is a good busy when you can see things happening," Morrill says.
Bowers will talk about more than these projects in his State of the City Address on Friday. He will also talk about some of the city's internal changes. Leaders have instituted Lean Process Improvement measures to be more efficient with city business.