West End community leaders work to overcome neighborhood perception problem

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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) - The West End area of Roanoke has been going through a transformation process, yet some community leaders believe there's still a perception issue because people don't know about the positive changes.

The West End is an informal name for the community that includes pieces of the Mountain View, Hurt Park, and Old Southwest neighborhoods.

"It's been underserved for a good many years and overlooked for quite some time," said Corbin Prydwen.

Prydwen has invested time and money into the community by renovating homes and opening businesses.

"I would definitely say it is an up and coming neighborhood."

But it wasn't always this way. The neighborhood is a far cry from what it was like when WDBJ7 interviewed Prydwen five years ago.

Back then, he had to put up a "no hookers" sign discouraging prostitutes from hanging out on his corner.

"I actually had a knife pulled on me by one of them," he said in 2012.

Crime was one reason city leaders chose the West End as a target area to improve. From 2012-2015, city leaders poured money into revitalizing the community. Private developers like Prydwen also stepped up.

"The community has really really grown," Prydwen said. "It's not the same neighborhood you would have thought of 7 or 10 years ago."

The only problem is he says not everyone knows about the positive changes, creating a perception problem.

"For me to still hear the negative comments about our community is heartbreaking," he said.

City council member Michelle Dykstra lives in the West End area.

"This neighborhood has a lot of character, a lot of vitality, and there are a lot of people here trying to do really good things," she said.

"I'm so happy with all of the investment that has gone into this neighborhood.".

While some may not be aware of the improvements, Dykstra says others are starting to figure it out.

"We see a lot of people moving into the neighborhood, people that wouldn't consider living here previously."

Cathy Harmon runs this West End shop. She also hopes more people will learn about how the West End is now.

"Get over that stigma because the past is the past," she said. "We don't live in the past, we live in the upcoming progression of the future."

The community leaders say they aren't trying to displace anyone already in the neighborhood, their goal is only to make it more livable.