Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Tour With a Tale To Tell

Our Star City Rollergirls contingent gets a shot of the Transportation Museum's Mercury rocket^

Christina Koomen Smith (my wife) talks about the emergence of Studio Roanoke and its remarkable design^

The tour stops in front of The Taubman Museum for some background^

This shot of the Link Museum with a train passing in front is instructive^

I like this shot from this morning's tour because it is an introduction to Roanoke: Link Museum, Wachovia Tower, Dominion Tower, Taubman Museum all behind a welcome sign^

Eldon Karr's notion that a walking tour of downtown Roanoke that was accompanied by information about what was being viewed and an idea of how to photograph it proved to be nearly irresistible this morning. A total crowd of 22 showed up for the first Heart of Roanoke tour and the planned one hour visit turned into an hour and a half of lively conversation and photography. (The group was an odd mix of roller derby participants, professionals, news types and the simply interested.)

My wife, Christina, provided the details about several downtown buildings and I gave a few tips on photographing, but the star of this morning's event was Eldon Karr and his idea to stir up some feeling about the Roanoke center city, which has been missing for some time. Karr was one of the literal and figurative architects of Design '79, the downtown plan that revitalized what had become a failing, deteriorating area and made it the middle of a renewed vibrancy that seems to have taken hold, even as it changes to this day.

Eldon--with his social media guru Jill Elswick in tow--plans more of these events and I recommend them for what they will become and for what can result from this renewed interest. One of the most interesting conversations this morning, for example, occurred in front of the Virginia Museum of Transportation where questions were asked about how an exterior display could broadcast attractions and how some type of pedestrian-friendly plaza could help make the transition from street to museum.

Could be that nothing will come of this because it affects The Roanoke Times' parking areas and my guess is the RT would rather give up lives than parking. Still, it was the start of a conversation and that's where solutions begin. Watch for announcements of future events of Facebook and Twitter (Jill's specialty) and for heaven's sake lend your voice. It's your city.


  1. Thank you, Dan. And thanks to you and Christina for guiding the tour with lessons on Roanoke's architecture and history -- & how to capture Roanoke in photography. Your photos from today tour are excellent, as always. The one of the welcome sign even has the Dr. Pepper sign & part of Mill Mountain in it. I hope you and Christina will join us for future tours. I like what Eldon said today. He could walk these routes as an urban planner on his own, but he'd rather have company. Who knows what kinds of ideas will come out of this. Meanwhile, we all get a chance to make friends & get to know our hometown better.

  2. You've written a wonderful set of minutes for a new type of urban design meeting. Perhaps you will consent to becoming the recording secretary to the group? I love the spontaneous emergence of new ideas that results from this very short exercise.