Issues

The future looks bright for Blacksburg. Thanks to the engagement of our citizens and the good judgment of town leaders in recent years, Blacksburg is becoming a model “Cool City” committed to both economic and ecological sustainability while preserving our unique character and quality of life. Ensuring this future will require vigilance, hard work, and thoughtful planning by both town leaders and the community at large.

Today we face a number of important issues that will determine Blacksburg’s character and the quality of our lives in the years ahead. We must address growth, development and redevelopment, and numerous other issues in thoughtful, creative, and sustainable ways.

We are currently updating our Comprehensive Plan, our roadmap for our town’s future. Citizen input is tremendously important. For more information, please view Susan’s two-minute video on the Comprehensive Plan and visit our town webpage.

Management of Growth and Development

Wise management of growth and development is necessary to ensure both economic viability and community livability. Development and redevelopment should be guided by our shared community values and managed by strict adherence to zoning laws and the vision articulated in our Comprehensive Plan. Directing growth toward clustering, in-fill, preservation of green space, and diverse housing options, including workforce, senior, and young professional housing, should be encouraged.

We know that Virginia Tech’s student population will grow significantly in the coming years. Some development and redevelopment has already occurred which will help address this, such as The Edge and the Retreat, both on Prices Fork Road. In addition, the redevelopment of Sturbridge Square Apartments on University City Boulevard has been approved.

Housing to help our lower income folks is underway on Givens Lane with the redevelopment of a portion of the Blacksburg Estates mobile home park for mixed residential use.

Some Proposed Development Projects Include:

  • “Stadium View,” a proposed Warren Street student housing project, is currently on hold per the applicant’s request. This project has not yet come before Town Council.
  • Stonegate II, a proposed apartment complex on Broce Drive across from the existing Stonegate Apartments, is moving forward. The project, one and two-bedroom units for a total of 44 bedrooms, is under review by Town Council.
  • A proposal for 6 one-bedroom units off Marlington Street is going through the conditional use permit process.
  • Plans for a (by right) hotel and a day care center are underway for the “rugby field” behind Kroger just off South Main Street.
  • The “Commerce Place Brewery,” a craft brewery and tasting room, is in the works.
  • Three parking lots are proposed to be built or expanded at TORC, 115 South Hill, and at the corner of Clay and Church Streets.
  • The “Blacksburg Memory Center,” which would adjoin “The Crossings,” is a proposal for a 60-bed memory care facility. The land for this center would be purchased from the Town of Blacksburg and funds from this sale would be used to enhance the adjacent Blacksburg park.
  • There is a plan for a hotel and multi-family building on Dowdy Drive with hotel rooms on the ground floor and multi-family units on the upper and basement floors.
  • Preston Row, 19 units of cottages and garden apartments, and the Whipple Duplexes, 26 units in 13 buildings, have been approved by Town Council.
  • “The Alexander,” a planned residential community of 27 condo units approved by Town Council several years ago, is moving forward.

Old Blacksburg Middle School Site

Redeveloping the old Blacksburg Middle School property as a mixed-use site where it is possible both to live and to work — a site that is a civic, commercial, residential, and recreational resource — is a key investment in our community’s future. Because of the size of this property and its strategic location at the meeting point of our south side residential neighborhoods, our civic center (municipal building, library, police station, Blacksburg Motor Co. building), and our downtown commercial district, we must ensure that all stakeholders have a say in its fate and that what develops here reflects our shared vision of Blacksburg’s future.

Downtown Revitalization

The continued revitalization of our historic downtown as a pedestrian friendly, vibrant retail and arts center is essential to both the health and the character of Blacksburg. Much progress has been made in the past decade:

  • During the summer of 2007, the Downtown Revitalization Committee formed, comprised of representatives from various stakeholders within the community: Downtown Merchants of Blacksburg (now Downtown Blacksburg, Inc.), the Lyric Theatre, Blacksburg Partnership, Town Staff, Town Council, Citizens First, Townscape, VT Arts Initiative, residential neighborhood representatives, and local business and development leaders.
  • Since 2008, the town has dedicated two maintenance staff positions to cleaning up the downtown. Both residents and downtown merchants have commented positively about the upkeep of downtown.
  • During the fall of 2008, Town Council approved a downtown façade improvement program using $50,000 from the Community Development Block Grant program. Two façades were approved during the spring of 2009 using these funds, with subsequent funding in later fiscal years. Façade improvements have been completed on Chipotle, the Cellar, Cabo Fish Taco, 400 North Main Street, Boudreaux’s, Social House, and Capone’s.
  • Chaired by Susan Anderson, the Downtown Revitalization Committee, with the help of town staff and the town attorney, drafted an incentives ordinance for the downtown and a brochure for prospective businesses describing the incentives and other town, state, and federal programs which provide aid. Town Council unanimously passed Ordinance 1548 in November 2009.
  • The Downtown Revitalization Committee, beginning in the summer of 2009, has cleaned up empty storefronts in downtown and placed dozens of displays promoting Blacksburg activities in the windows. Susan helped from beginning to end on these workdays. We believe these window dressing efforts not only made the streetscape more attractive but actually helped some of the spaces to be rented.
  • Committee members — including Susan — of the Downtown Revitalization Committee have cleaned up the Bollo’s alley off Draper Road several times.
  • The Sidewalk Stage program, introduced by the Downtown Revitalization Committee, has encouraged public performances by musicians and other artists in the downtown commercial district.
  • The Downtown Revitalization Committee and town staff completed the booklet, “The Art of Opening a Business: Downtown Blacksburg Edition,” to encourage new retail enterprises to locate in our community.
  • The North Main Street project has been completed, including the new roundabout, a narrowing of the roadway and widening of sidewalks, and the addition of benches and landscaping — creating a more pedestrian friendly portion of our downtown commercial district along this corridor.
  • The Downtown Revitalization Committee, with great help from our town attorney and other town staff, drafted Ordinance 1655 to amend our zoning ordinance by adding a new “Live/Work/Sell Arts Overlay District” to encourage owner-occupied arts businesses in one of our downtown neighborhoods. It also worked on Ordinance 1660 to provide economic incentives for qualified arts businesses and tourism-related businesses, including specialty retail businesses. Town Council passed these ordinances unanimously in December 2012.
  • The College Avenue Promenade project has been completed, creating an exciting and inviting pedestrian space for public events, outdoor dining, and informal gatherings.
  • The town has added recycling containers for use by pedestrians downtown, and much work has been completed by Sustainable Blacksburg and town staff on a recycling program for downtown businesses.
  • In 2006, College Avenue had at least three vacancies; now in 2013, there are none. And more businesses have opened on Main Street in the downtown district, such as the Main Street Inn, TR Collections, and Mellow Mushroom. The Brownstone brought even more businesses to Main Street — including a pharmacy — and the redevelopment of the Old Bank Building complex will bring still more.
  • We need to continue to actively recruit new business to our downtown specifically and Blacksburg generally.

Other Commercial Districts

  • We need to continue to actively recruit new businesses to and support current businesses in ALL our commercial districts.
  • This year’s town budget includes funding to study and implement appropriate zoning standards for three of the town’s commercial districts: North Main, South Main, and University City Boulevard.

Downtown Parking

As Blacksburg continues to grow and to draw more residents and visitors to the downtown district, we will need additional public parking as well as dedicated parking for those working and living downtown.

  • The town purchased the parking lot on Progress Street behind the Cellar Restaurant and repaved and reconfigured it during the summer of 2013 for leased parking, adding a pedestrian walkway, bicycle parking, and trees and shrubs. This purchase opened up additional public parking spaces in the adjacent lot.
  • The Downtown Revitalization Committee produced a brochure on parking availability in the downtown area, complete with a map and parking tips. Our town Community Relations Office has taken over this project and periodically updates the information and prints copies of the pamphlet as needed for distribution throughout the area.
  • The town undertook a parking study to see how best to remedy the need for more readily available public parking.

Housing

A diverse community has diverse housing needs. To attract and support working families, young professionals, retirees, and our student population, Blacksburg needs to have housing appropriate for a range of income levels and lifestyles.

  • As a member of the Blacksburg Housing and Community Development Advisory Board, Susan has helped bring more workforce housing to Blacksburg.
  • A duplex on Wilson Avenue was completed in 2009.
  • Nine homes on Cedar Hill Drive were completed in 2009 and 2010.
  • The board and town staff worked closely with our local Habitat for Humanity on Habitat’s two houses on Nellie’s Cave Road during 2012 and 2013.
  • A rezoning request was approved by Town Council in 2013 for four two-family dwellings (eight total units) for affordable senior rental housing on Grissom Lane. The housing board worked on this project during 2012 and 2013, and construction has been completed on these beautiful units.
  • Our housing board has overseen emergency home repair and several rehabilitation projects, including homes on Wilson Avenue, Chelsea Court, Progress Street, and McDonald Street.
  • The town is currently working with residents of the Progress Street/Bennett Hill neighborhood to purchase homes, rehabilitate them as single family homes, and resell them to lower income families.

Neighborhoods

Preserving the integrity of our neighborhoods by guarding against external encroachment and internal decay is vital to maintaining a high quality of life for all Blacksburg residents. Town officials should strictly enforce all safety, noise, and housing codes, and Council should follow both the Comprehensive Plan and zoning ordinances when ruling on permits and other issues. Town Council should encourage strong neighborhood associations and provide regular opportunities for dialogue with neighborhood representatives to share ideas and discuss concerns.

Open Space and Recreational Opportunities

Open spaces, neighborhood parks, greenways, biking and walking paths, as well as quality recreational facilities (including athletic fields) for residents of all ages contribute greatly to the livability of our community. Through strongly supporting the Comprehensive Plan and the Comprehensive Plan planning process, as well as careful budget management, we must preserve and expand these resources. One opportunity for such expansion would be for the town to work with the owner of the old Blacksburg High School property on Patrick Henry Drive for more recreation facilities. An opportunity which was realized on August 22, 2017, is the formal acceptance of 9.46 acres of land adjacent to Nellies Cave Park from the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors for additional passive recreation use. For more information on this cooperative effort between the county and the town, please see the September 10 Roanoke Times article at http://www.roanoke.com/news/local/blacksburg/meadow-takes-on-official-status-as-park/article_d64da677-2fd5-5820-9353-0e9033415398.html?utm_medium=social&utm_source=email&utm_campaign=user-share>.

Finances

To ensure the fiscal health of our town in the face of decreasing state funding and limited revenue sources, I believe that Town Council should pursue the following measures:

  • Increase the tax base by having near full occupancy of current retail facilities and through continued growth of corporate research businesses and light manufacturing operations that offer high paying jobs. Collecting meals and lodging taxes from businesses operating on the Virginia Tech campus would provide additional revenues.
  • Insist that any new development of housing areas and/or satellite retail hubs (for example, South Main interchange development, University Mall, North Main) pay the full cost of infrastructure development–sewer needs, water needs, electric needs, roads, etc.
  • Adhere strictly to the town charter requirement of a super majority for any new assumption of debt.
  • Take full advantage of and be more aggressive in securing opportunities for state and federal grants for town projects. For example, Blacksburg can apply for more funds for demonstration projects, housing grants, and technology grants.