The official start of the City’s renovations to the Market Building was an important milestone for Downtown’s latest renaissance. The $5 million project joins over $50 million of private investment in the central core. While much needed, any renovation involving a building as historic and monumental as the Market Building is likely to cause some changes to our daily routine. As new patterns are created it is important to pause for a moment and highlight that Downtown is still open for business.
Downtown’s local businesses are still open as are the farmers and vendors at the outdoor Farmers Market. There are still over 600 free on-street and thousands of structured parking spaces available to facilitate your visit. While construction projects are occurring in many parts of Downtown, our core retail areas on Market and Jefferson Streets and West Campbell Avenue as well as businesses elsewhere in Downtown are still easily accessible. As always it is crucial to support these local and regional businesses not only because it maintains the vibrancy of Downtown, but also because by shopping and dining at local businesses you are investing more heavily in the local economy.
Your Downtown also remains Southwestern Virginia’s preeminent business address, and recent investments by Downtown-headquartered businesses further solidify that position. Additionally, Downtown continues to thrive as a neighborhood. DRI anticipates that with the completion of The Patrick Henry, Sixteen West and City High School residential conversions, Downtown’s population will break 1,000 residents; and each of these projects are taking vacant and underutilized structures and returning them to vibrant tax generating additions to the urban living scene. The continued successes of Downtown’s corporate and residential sectors is contingent on public investments like the Market Building renovation to provide the amenities that set Roanoke apart from competitive cities around the Southeast.
There will also be no disruption to the various regional celebrations that call Downtown home. Dickens of a Christmas 2010 was a huge success and even added new attractions to the beloved tradition. EventZone’s presentations such as the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival in the Park will continue unabated. And new events continue to join the ranks of Art by Night, Microfestivus and Local Colors.
While construction at the Market Building is likely to cause some temporary road restrictions, the majority of visitors to Downtown will be able to drive and walk on all the streets they are used to. Campbell and Salem Avenues will remain open to both directions of traffic; with some exceptions at the beginning of the renovation schedule, Wall and “short” Market Streets are now open to through traffic and parallel parking. Valley Metro’s bus schedule will not be impeded and the Star Line Trolley will continue to connect Downtown to the emerging business nodes and urban neighborhoods in South Roanoke and the Jefferson Street Corridor. No matter how you are used to visiting Downtown, all our entrances are open!
To understand how important public commitment to Downtown is, take a look at our own past. Thanks to “Design ‘79” and the subsequent investments by the City and the region’s business community, Roanoke is unique among cities in the Southeast to have realized early on the importance of maintaining Downtown as the economic and cultural center of the region. Many of our peer cities readily traded a vibrant core for a series of sterile malls migrating ever further away from the city center. It is only over the past few years that the amenities that Roanokers never lost such as the Farmers Market, Market Building and a vibrant local retail and restaurant mix have become heavily subsidized goals of many other Southern Cities.
Of course the public and private investments currently underway in Downtown are only one part of the equation. Downtown Roanoke, Inc. is working closely with the City of Roanoke on developing and implementing a robust retail recruitment and retention strategy. The national economy remains challenging and changes to the Downtown business scene are inevitable over the next year. However, exciting new additions such as Lucky and 24 Church restaurants join the Market Building renovation in generating new energy in the City’s center.
The renovation to the Market Building is just one piece of the never ending evolution of Downtown, but it is an important one. The restaurants are open, the Farmers are selling and the retailers are awaiting your visit. It’s your Downtown Roanoke, and we’re open for business.
For more information on the Market Building's Renovations, please click here.