City to update downtown plan, focus on westward expansion

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) Roanoke's downtown has come a long way over the last 30 years and tonight, city leaders are making plans for even more growth.

This isn't something that's going to happen overnight, but the plan gives a sneak peek on where new development could come.

The Virginia Museum of Transportation welcomes tens of thousands each year. It's an anchor in this part of downtown. They're growing each year -- and so are the number of neighbors they have downtown.

Shayne Dwyer, Virginia Museum of Transportation, said, “We're all for it. We love the activity all around us. A rising tide lifts all boats.

John Garland, Roanoke City Council, said, “Well I say we've gone from 2 to 2,000 people living downtown.”

Roanoke City Councilman John Garland has watched the city transform over the years -- with more apartments and businesses like Tuco's and Big Lick Brewing. He says there's still more to come.

Garland said, “Well downtown needs to be more than a couple blocks area at the market area.”

In the updated downtown Roanoke plan, the city has its eyes on expansion westward in the areas beyond 5th Street and Salem Avenues.

The area is currently zoned industrial and has the buildings to go along with it, but that's exactly why the city sees potential turning spots like this into places where people live.

Garland said, “When you have buildings with high ceilings where you can create lofts they're very attractive.”

The city is considering rezoning a few of the blocks. It would encourage redevelopment and allow apartments and commercial spaces. As a developer, Garland sees potential for private companies to come in and spruce up this part of downtown.

“Those are the kinds of things that are exciting,” said Garland. “That you're taking areas that people didn't want to go to and now they not only want to go to them they want to live there.”

With that, comes an expanding footprint, which puts the Virginia Museum of Transportation exactly where they want to be.

Dwyer said, “As the circle continues to grow we're more in the circle.”

City council will hold a hearing on the entire plan tonight at 7 o'clock. People who are interested can come to the meeting, learn more, and share their thoughts with council.