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 once again 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 previous 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 has grown significantly in recent years and may continue to grow. Much 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 and a section of Terrace View is under construction.
Housing to help our lower income folks has been completed on Givens Lane with the redevelopment of a portion of the Blacksburg Estates mobile home park for mixed residential use. And seven units on Church Street were completed in 2020 by Habitat for Humanity. The Town currently is looking into forming a Land Trust to make more affordable housing available.
Some Recent Development Projects Include:
Old Blacksburg Middle School Site
Midtown, the redevelopment of the old Blacksburg Middle School property is now underway. This mixed-use site, where it will be possible both to live and to work, will be a civic, commercial, residential, and recreational resource — 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, Blacksburg Motor Co. building), and our downtown commercial district, we have done our best to ensure that all stakeholders had a say in its fate and that the development here reflects our shared vision of Blacksburg’s future. Construction of our new Blacksburg police station is currently underway on the site.
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:
Other Commercial Districts
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.
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.
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>.
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: