Ok - heres the post on the Art Museum

Go somewhere. and see.

and herein lies the problem. In NYC (my former residence) you wouldnt HAVE Awful Arthurs across from the art house. And you really really dont want those "opening night" people coming in. Believe me - they dont spend as much as you think. They'd come - look - laugh - and leave. And not because Roanokes done anything wrong, just because its not NY. Sorry, but I moved here because Roanoke is still liveable - but if this is what you want, I may just wind up in Rocky Mount.

I believe that Roanokers are just as capable of supporting the arts and supporting local businesses as anyone - if they werent, would Billy's Ritz really have the capitol to open the "Say Cheese" shop, much less have it running well? After the St. Pats day parade, they could barely fit more people in there, and guess what? The locals did drop a chunk of change.

There is no reason to try and pander to the "cool table." This is not high school. Roanoke, you honestly are better than NYC in every way possible (regardless wether or not anyone but a transplant sees it). Think about it, and you'll understand that what you have is more valuable than some collection of Handbags, Moderne Art, or Opening Nights. Roanoke is enduring, something most large cities arent. They have to change frequently because they fail if they dont. DC for example. Failure central (and Im not talking politics).

IMAX would be great, but in Providence, RI (a city not unlike Roanoke) they put the IMAX theatre in the big mall. Which is in downtown. Which looks like it belongs downtown.

Its simple really. Think about it.

Ok, busy day in Roanoke

Allright, first things first. Let me jump right in and say Explore Park, as nice as it is (and I visited on several occasions - having grown up with a similar "living history" park I am accustomed to it) is really a waste of time.

Ok, now I never say that about civic projects. But look at it this way, you've got an educational, fun place that no one visits. You've got people who not only donate their time, but their blood and sweat to this place, and no one comes. You've got not enough people who donate their time, blood and sweat, and no one comes. You've got this lovely little park - and no one comes.

Im going to say this very nicely, and very politely. Dump the park. Now, I know - what to do with all the time, blood, sweat, and stuff that have gone into making that park? (this is where it gets good...)

Move it. Move it to Mill Mountain, and connect it via walking trails to the Zoo and Star. Half the issue is where its located, I swear. Its not too far, but not too close either. Plus you have to travel the Blue Ridge, which is cool - by daylight. At night - well, I know you locals are used to the deer and whatnot jumping out at you, but hell - Im not, and no one I know is. We were going to hold our wedding there - but the idea of a bunch of tipsy NY'ers driving the Blue Ridge at night, well - I saw a wild turkey once on the Blue Ridge - and he had murder in his eyes. Not the best idea.

Bringing in a independant developer will do 2 things - increase the visibility of the park, and increase the viability of the park. Of course this means concessions on the park of the natives. Yes there probably will be a time when part of the Blue Ridge is lit at night, because if your going to have a hotel and whatnot, your obvioudly gunning for the tourists. And after the first 10 reservations at the hotel dont show because they "vanish", I have a feeling that things will get brighter. A new entrance road will be built. No offence to Rutrough Rd., but something a bit more direct from 581/220 would be preferable. Theres plenty of land and plently of opportunity for a new connection to be made, even if it is off Hardy Rd. And increased traffic on Hardy Rd. means more business for Vinton. But much like my unspoken arguement against the Art Museum, (unspoken because I forgot to include it) Roanoke Regional Airport, as lovely as it is - is not served enough to easily bring people in. Yes, there might still be families who take the "Great American Road Trip" every summer - but most of them now dont have the time to dedicate to driving long distances for "tourist attractions."

Again - its just my thoughts on it.

I think combining Mill Mountain (if you ever look at the GIS for Mill Mountain, there certainly is enough land to build on - while keeping the mountain clean) and Explore Park as it stands now, is probably the best idea overall. A simple walk from the Star, to the Zoo, to the "living history" Explore Park would certainly make for great one stop vacationing. The Star and the Zoo easily take a day alone, if one has lunch there. And it would present in one area, the best arguement for Roanoke as the true "Star City"


After the Parade

So, yesterdays St. Pats weekend Parade went off wonderfully. Turnout was astounding, and I only saw the crowd by the Wachovia tower. I can just imagine how packed Jefferson was for the length of the parade.

Special nods to the Kazim Shriners, who brought an astounding arsenal of motorized equpiment. Those guys make Monster Garage look weak.

So yesterday was a great day for a parade. What a way to kick off the spring. Although Im thinking they need a bigger space for the Celtic Festival part, as in Elmwood Park or even Wicktory Stadium. Wachovia Plaza just isn't big enough, besides - what happens when the art museum is built? We then lose all that space behind Billy's Ritz. Wheres the party going to go? First Fridays? All that. Unless they close Norfolk Ave. from one end of the Wachovia to the other, theres no space there large enough to accomidate. Just my 2 centavos.

On to the weekly update on Forgotten-Roanoke. Been a busy week, and havent had much of a chance to get down into town again and shoot endless amounts of photos. Well, not true - all the photos I took were of the Parade. (posted later) But that has not stopped my research. I am beginning to discover that the end of passenger rail in Roanoke, the Virginian and even Amtrak, might just have been the best thing to happen to Roanoke.

As I delve through map upon map at the Digital Sanborn Archives, acessable to those of you who have a library card I am finding Roanoke of the past seemed a very transitional town. Plenty of hotels, boarding houses, apartments everywhere. Now I did hear a couple of the old timers at work talking about how some company owned every house from Campbell Ave. north, and all you could do was rent from them.

Ownership is the biggest key to keeping an area liveable. People who take pride in their lawns, keeping the streets clean, even decorating on holidays - that all adds up to making an area unique. And with the amount of apartment houses, former homes turned duplexes, boarding houses, and the like I see on these maps going back 50-100 years - I can see why there is such pride in Roanoke, and why there is such a mish-mash of neighborhoods. One thing I am noticing as we go looking for a house. There might be 5-6 houses in a row all looking nice. Out of those 45-6 houses, 2 might be duplexes. 1 might be a full apartment house. Leaving only 2-3 houses in a row with continual, constant ownership and upkeep by those who live there.

For those of you who know the Apartment complexes of Roanoke, think of the Cloisters.

Boy - I found that place by accident. At the end of a street, behind a row of hedges, down a 1 car wide path with a mirror at both ends so you can see if another car is coming, and situated right next to 581. Windows thinner than your computer screen and twice as wide.

I mean hell, you really are cloistered. I understand some people might like that - but this entrance is in the middle of a neighborhood. Yet hidden. Im sure under normal circumstances, no one would even think of building like that - with such a strange entrance, and located almost ON the highway.

And then, in the same neighborhood, I began to notice that half the houses werent houses. They were offices. Office, office, house, duplex, house, office.

It gives the neighborhood a very transitional, imperminant feel. Roanoke seems to have quite a few mixed-purpose neighborhoods. I remember reading some time ago that Amtrak was supposed to be back in Roanoke in 2007. Hardly likely at this point, but with the Trans-Dominion Express (damn I love that name!) on the drawing board, your going to see more commuting from outlying areas to Roanoke for work -the travel time between Roanoke and Lynchburg will be approx. 1 hour, which will make one of the two a major city. It will increase the number of people moving through the area, both short and long term. Roanoke has no shortage of temporary housing, Roanoke needs a plan to create perminant housing, long term communitys, and re-zone neighborhoods solely for single family housing. Move the businesses to enterprize zones, the apartments to transitional zones.

A perfect example is Old SW. Franklin Rd is lined with offices, businesses, a lovely church. Good. Go a block back, you have still more businesses, offices - yadda yadda. Fine. But 3 blocks in and now you've got peoples houses, businesses, offices, and apartment buildings. That puts a strain on any area - no matter how long its been that way. An address on a residential street should not be considered a "desireable business address."

Just my 2 cents.

Forgotten-Roanoke will have parade pixs later today, and be back to normal updates next week. Easter Sundays are always great days to get out an explore.