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Upgrades to Congested Roads Fueling Development in Roanoke County, Virginia

Wed February 10, 2021 - Southeast Edition
Roanoke Times

A conceptual rendering shows what the intersection of Williamson and Plantation roads in Hollins might look like. Roanoke County is in the early stages of implementing redevelopment plans for the area. (Roanoke County rendering)
A conceptual rendering shows what the intersection of Williamson and Plantation roads in Hollins might look like. Roanoke County is in the early stages of implementing redevelopment plans for the area. (Roanoke County rendering)

With sidewalks planned for construction at limited expense to the local government, Roanoke County, Virginia, officials are cultivating newfound interest from investors by using plans to improve congested commercial corridors.

On road improvement projects occurring through 2024, Roanoke County leveraged $2 million of taxpayer money to secure an additional $51.8 million in state and federal funds for use along the crowded Virginia Rt. 419 near Roanoke's Tanglewood Mall, according to data provided by Philip Thompson, the county's planning director.

Further down Electric Road in the Oak Grove area, funding was secured through state and federal sources for three street projects totaling $1.5 million, at no cost to Roanoke County, documents show.

On the other side of the county, after a final stretch of sidewalk is finished along Williamson Road in 2024, the bill to Roanoke County for five separate sidewalk projects along Williamson and Plantation roads in Hollins will be $55,000, Thompson said. Federal and state funds will cover the other $6.9 million of roadwork expenses.

"When I started here, there were probably only about two people working transportation," Thompson said. "Now it is multi-department, with a lot of people involved in that process. "It will probably continue to grow. It's successful."

Adding the numbers countywide, more than $60 million of transportation projects are scheduled for completion within the next five years, costing Roanoke County a bit more than $2 million, with state and federal grants covering the other 97 percent of expenses.

"That's awesome," said Roanoke County Supervisor Martha Hooker. "[It is] to be commended."

Projects planned include construction to widen parts of Rt. 419, plus safety and walkability improvements at intersections in Hollins and Oak Grove, such as more sidewalks, making the areas more pedestrian-friendly.

Plans recently adopted by the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors are already coming to fruition, said the county's economic development director, Jill Loope.

"I can't overstate the importance of the infrastructure transportation investments and changes that are going on right now," she said. "It really is critical to economic impact, and we're starting to see it gradually over time."

The real estate market is hot and investor inquiries are frequent, Loope added.

"The plans adopted and all the work that has gone in up to this point is really starting to get some traction behind the scenes," she explained. "Developers, property owners — they're starting to look at repositioning real estate in each of these corridors."

Soon, she said, announcements will be made related to Tanglewood Mall. In addition, two large, adjacent properties in Hollins are under contract with a real estate development firm, Loope added.

"[In] total, that gives us a really large site that is being assembled potentially in the Hollins area in excess of 100 acres," she continued. "These are two properties that are both zoned for industrial that could represent a very large-scale project — one or two, depending on what the new owners want to do with it."

In Hollins, 255 undeveloped acres zoned for residential use are available at 7200 Old Mountain Road, for an asking price of $5.7 million. Loope said this is among many examples of opportunity for future large-scale development in Roanoke County.

"There's a lot of interest in the market for selling property and developing property," Loope said. "That's good news."

And the interest generated in Roanoke County's commercial corridors is partially due to the government's road improvement projects, she maintains.

"These infrastructure investments are what we should be doing. It's part of our plans, and it's working," Loope said. "It's very gradual, it's very slow, but it's starting to take root."

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