Roanoke spends millions to improve northwest section of city

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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) It's a neighborhood that's had its share of problems in the past. Now, the city of Roanoke is trying to improve Northwest Roanoke around Melrose and Orange Avenues.

For the last couple years, leaders have invested millions of dollars in that corner of the city.

It's no secret that Laura Young's neighborhood needs a little work.

Laura Young, Lives in Melrose/Orange, said, “It's been needing some life breathed into it for a long time.”

She's been living along Orange Avenue for the last six years, and recently, she's noticed some changes.

“I think it's making a world of difference,” said Young.

A few doors down, one home has been built, and another is being renovated. It's thanks to Habitat for Humanity, with help from the city.

Keith Holland, Community Resources Program Administrator, said, “Over a couple of years, you're starting to see impacts.”

That progress on Young's street is tracked in Keith Holland's office. The city focuses a large chunk of US Housing and Urban Development money in specific neighborhoods for a few years. So far, they've spent $3.8 million in the 'Melrose/Orange' area.

“To overall give a spark in the neighborhood,” said Holland.

$500 thousand dollars went to promote change elsewhere. They helped turn the old Ms. Choc's Lounge -- a well-known problem for police -- into a new community center and kitchen for Feeding America Southwest Virginia.

Pamela Irvine, Feeding America Southwest Virginia President/CEO, said, “Well if we did not get that initial contribution from Roanoke City through CDBG, this project would not have happened.”

That facility will open in May. Back on Young's block, she's pleased that change in her neighborhood is finally taking shape.

“That's progress,” said Young. “That's a big deal.”

The city expects to focus their resources in this neighborhood until about 2020. In all, they expect to spend just over $5 million here in the Melrose/Orange Target area.