VINTON–Ryan Spitzer, assistant to the Town Manager in Vinton, serves as the administrator of the $700,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) recently awarded to the Town for improvements to the downtown business district.
On January 10, Spitzer presented an overview of the proposed downtown revitalization plan to the newly formed Project Management Committee who will monitor the project.
Beverly Coleman, the project manager representing the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), which oversees the grant, was also present.
The Project Management Committee is made up of representatives from Town and County staff and governments, designers and consultants from Hill Studio, downtown property and business owners, and the Chamber of Commerce.
As part of the grant requirements, the management team will meet on the second Tuesday of each month to discuss particulars of the project, to assess the progress that is being made, and to report that progress to Coleman, who will visit periodically from her office in eastern Virginia.
Spitzer and other members of Town staff have been working for several weeks to complete the initial requirements that must be met before the Grant project can be put under contract and construction can begin. The Town has already held the first of two public hearings to solicit public input on the project.
Procedural and documentation requirements are in the process of being wrapped up; a proposed budget has been prepared; and a benchmark plan has been developed.
The role of the Project Management Committee is to keep the Grant and the Town of Vinton on track, to evaluate and assess the results, to assist with design planning, to resolve any grievances that arise with the community, to administer the façade and revolving loans aspects of the project, and to serve as liasons between the grant committee and downtown business owners.
Spitzer delineated various proposed allocations in the $2.1 million Downtown Revitalization project, which includes real estate acquisitions by the Town of Vinton and Roanoke County for the new public library.
The proposed budget for the $700,000 grant funding includes $269,000 for streetscaping and landscaping to make the downtown area more inviting to businesses and pedestrian traffic. Lighting will be replaced, with the elimination of much overhead wiring. Adjustments to parking and traffic flow are also under consideration.
Gateway improvements at the intersections of Washington Avenue and Pollard Street, and Virginia Avenue and Pollard, for landscaping, signage, and the addition of handicapped-accessible sidewalks are estimated at $69,000.
Improvements proposed for the Farmer’s Market to make the area more aesthetically pleasing and functional are estimated at $119,000.
Funding for façade improvements to existing businesses are estimated at $208,000, including the matching funds that participating businesses will contribute as part of the program. Three of these façade projects have already been completed.
Business development will be allocated approximately $124,000 of the grant money under the proposed budget to fund the revolving loan pool to new or existing businesses and to develop a “branding” initiative for the area. The revolving loan program is offered as an enticement to attract new businesses to downtown Vinton.
Under DHCD guidelines, each $25,000 loaned from the fund must generate one new full time equivalent job in the private sector. The loan fund may be used by new businesses as start-up money, or by existing businesses for improvements or renovations.
Members of the Project Management Committee include Mayor Brad Grose; Town Manager Chris Lawrence; Ryan Spitzer, assistant to the Town Manager and grant administrator; Anita McMillan, Vinton Director of Planning and Zoning; Gary Woodson, Vinton Director of Public Works; Stephanie Dearing, Vinton Human Resources Director; Barry Thompson, Vinton Treasurer and Director of Finance; Lijah Robinson, Accounting Manager for the Town; Eddie Wells, Senior Planner for the 5th Planning District Commission; Jill Loope, acting Director of Economic Development for Roanoke County; Andy Morris, building official for Roanoke County; Mary Beth Layman, Director of Special Programs in Vinton; Diana Rosapepe, Roanoke County Library Director; Patrick Hughes, Project Manager representing Hill Studio; Angie Lewis, executive director of the Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce; and Vinton business and property owners Judy Cunningham, Mark Frye, Bruce Mayer, and Stephanie Brown.
Spitzer scheduled a work session at the Town Council meeting on January 15 to update members on the specifics of the Downtown Revitalization Grant project, including the timeline for the program, the proposed budget, and details on the façade improvement program and the revolving loan fund that will be administered by the Town.