The real State of the City (Part 2)

Picking up the drumbeat where we left off last time, the Mayor is now shifting his focus from extolling the virtues of a Victory Stadium-Free Roanoke and telling us how lucky we all are to be hosting (as a region) the US Challenge. And as wonderful and lucky as we all are to be gifted with such things, there are still a few key matters which hover above us.

The Market District plan, part 18a.

For the first time since Design '79, the public was directly involved in the process of brainstorming ideas for perking up the Downtown Market District. We were made aware of some immediate changes, the most important of them being the replacement of the vendor canopies.

Another "coming soon" item - a set of stairs leading from near the DogMouth Fountain on Salem and Market up to the Summertime Blast Furnace that is the pedestrian bridge. At least thats the best interpretation I can come up with. The way it actually reads is "Creation of a stepped plaza to draw people from the pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks into the city market."

I guess the escalators are too vague for the average visitor. Of course, I am not totally against this. I actually rather like the idea of having sweeping, dramatic steps against which the local youth (disenfranchised and bored) can sit, skateboard, and generally hang out. The panhandlers downtown would be given immediate access to those travellers who come across from the Hotel Roanoke.

No, but seriously - I think its cool. If done right, that is. My only question would be, where will the Wintery, Non-Denominational - yet Festive Tree go? Near as I can figure, the stairs will have to eliminate a good portion of the grass there.

Improving the City Market building can be done simply. Stop attempting to charge $2,000 a month in rent for 400 sq. feet of space, and end the current policy of "non-competition." Allow any non-franchise business access, offer the current and future businesses the option of being a "daytime only" establishment and taking a space inside the building, or operating days/nights/weekends on the outside rim of the building.

Yes, Williamson Rd. should be developed. Controlled, but developed. Once the new Art Museum and Floating Battleship (you didn't think it had a foundation did you?) is finished, I say the City should ask the Art Museum to vacate the warehouse at Norfolk and 3rd. That would free up a nice sized chunk of retail space, along with parking. And considering how nice a deal the AMWV got from the City, I'd say it would only be fair.

The Market Garage as a residence or hotel? You have got to be kidding me. With the quantifiable properties in direct access to the Market, and you want to offer a garage? Why not the parking lot behind WSLS while your at it? And those abandoned buildings on Salem down past.. no, scratch that last one. It's being done as we speak.

If this is indicitave of the business sense of the City, then it is a wonder we managed to come this far.

The first thing that should be done is a full and total inventory of every building within 8 blocks of the Market. Recording address, physical proximities (market.library.hospital), and condition. From that inventory, a database of the Marketable Market district, and the Unmarketable Market. Then the work begins.. how to make the Unmarketable, marketable. THAT is thinking strategically.

Without question, basic repairs AND upgrades should be made to the market stalls - and should have been made before.

I do wonder how the City Council and Mayor define the Market Area. It would seem a limited slice of the whole, from 2nd to 581, Shenandoah to Elm. Live, work, and play - in an area smaller than New York's Central Park. Unless you are looking to build more high rises, it's unlikely.

And stop pointing to the Art Museum as a "sign of great things to come." There are still no assurances that the construction will be completed, and with the sudden "no comment" policy to local businesses directly impacted by the construction - the plot seems deeper than the gravel and reinforced concrete piers it will be built upon.

Full disclosure - I happen by the construction site twice a day in my travels, and see many things - and hear even more. Insect infestations, water damage, and more - all a result of the construction.

I congradulate VACO on the expansion of it's business, and welcome the new retail space which will be added to Market St. Replacing a poorly-placed parking lot (with one interesting painted advertisement) with more jobs, more opportunities, and more commerce.

I have a choice here, stop now - and deal with the Drive for Youth movement the city is proposing, or try and jam it into this post.

Reading over the Mayor's comments - I feel this part needs it's own chapter. This is where the battles must be fought.

Refresh yourself with the subject matter here. And prepare to see the battlefield.

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