Saturday, November 2, 2013

It's Time To Give Thought to Roanoke River Development

The parking lot in question is the dark green square in the center of the drawing.
Now that we have determined that Lucas Thornton is not going to plow up the ballfields at Wasena Park in order to build condos (see previous post), the question is, "What kind of river development is appropriate in this section of Roanoke?"

My thought is that Thornton's preliminary plan is not a good one, though on the surface it sounds just fine if you're a young professional looking for an attractive apartment. The plan would take the main parking lot adjacent to the ballfields for multi-family cottages, preserving some of the space for green. It would be a nice idea somewhere else, but this park is needed as-is and it certainly doesn't need less parking. The neighbors would agree with that.

A better idea, presented by former Roanoke vice mayor Bill Carder on my Facebook page, is to develop some of the former Victory Stadium property, which is in the middle of a lot of change near the Carilion complex and the new Bern Ewert development. Former councilman Alfred Dowe made the self-same proposal a few years ago. He would have combined a commercial and residential complex along the river and had green behind it. You could even throw in a kayak/canoe/bike livery.

This is the area being discussed for development.
Lucas Thornton has an excellent record of ethical renovation and the Wasena project is only in the "thinking about it" stage. This younger crowd of developers and emerging leaders has its own idea of what is best for our Valley, some of it differing significantly from the preservationist mode I prefer. 

I don't think they are greedy and I know they are not without integrity. Their mentors are Ed Walker and John Garland, among others, and that says a lot good about them. 

Rivers running through cities are prime spots for careful and thoughtful development and the Roanoke River is no different. 

I believe it would be of considerable significance to make the entire length of the river through the Roanoke Valley navigable before it can reach its full potential and that would be quite expensive, requiring the rebuilding of at least one bridge and several other barriers that clog the river. 

This river has been abused and misused for almost the entire time people have been settled here and it's neigh time that stopped. If it were navigable, you'd see a very different river and attractive growth along its course.

My guess is that any plan for the Wasena plots will come up short either at the Planning Commission or City Council stages and that there may even be caveats in the original Fishburn gift to the city preventing this development. Lucas Thornton should not give up on his idea of river development, though. He just needs to think it through and find a better spot.

1 comment:

  1. Just as an FYI, the Bridges project initiated by Ewert and others envisions a commercial and residential mixed use and includes a canoe/kayak landing. Maybe there will be a need for even more of that type of development on the west side of Jefferson at some future date, but that area also makes for prime recreational use. I'm sure there will be space for an enterprising bike rental company, perhaps a satellite of the one planned for the old Transportation Museum building.