VINTON–After nearly seven years of planning and three years of slogging through the application process, the Town of Vinton has seen its vision become reality with receipt of a $700,000 downtown revitalization grant from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) early this summer.
On November 8, the tangible work on the project began to take shape when state CDBG representatives addressed the stakeholders in the project at a meeting at Vinton’s War Memorial.
Those stakeholders include the Town Manager, representatives from Town Council, the Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce, and Roanoke County government, the Town financial officer, businesses and building owners, the grant manager, the Public Works director, and the project engineer and architect,.
Within three months the preliminary stages of the process will be completed, a contract will be signed, and then the actual construction will then get underway. In a period of two years, the face of downtown Vinton will be transformed. The total cost of the project is estimated at approximately $2,000,000.
Denise Ambrose, associate director of Virginia’s Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) detailed the steps necessary to get the project under contract, and introduced Beverly Coleman from the DHCD who will be directly overseeing the Vinton project.
The project encompasses a six block area in downtown Vinton along portions of Washington, Lee, Walnut, Jackson, and Virginia Avenues, South Pollard Street, and the Farmer’s Market.
Its purpose is to revitalize the central business area by eliminating physical blight, removing barriers to economic revitalization, and promoting private economic investment.
Ambrose praised the Town for its efforts to procure other funding for the project, especially the formation of a partnership between the Town, Roanoke County, and private citizens (the Dunman family) in securing property for construction of the new Vinton library within the boundary area. A major factor in approval for the grant was the purchase of the Dunman property.
Funds amounting to about $1.4 million were obtained from Town coffers and agreements with Roanoke County, private citizens, and foundations for improvements to the downtown area.
“The Town applied for a $700,000 grant and received the total amount,” said Ambrose. “That’s not always done. Vinton received points in their evaluation for other funds brought to the table.”
Collaborating with Hill Studio, the Town developed a master plan, a “roadmap”, which was presented to the CDBG in completing the application for the grant.
Hill Studio is a local firm of architects, landscape architects, and planners, who provide expertise in community development, comprehensive planning, land use and zoning. They work with local governments, community groups, and private property owners to undertake a diversity of projects, including town, city and county-wide plans, downtown revitalization plans, neighborhood plans, and land use/zoning studies.
The Town chose Hill Studio from a group of consulting firms who submitted proposals in 2009 when the Town was awarded the initial DHCD planning grant of $35,000.
Town Manager Chris Lawrence, Anita McMillan, Director of Planning and Zoning, Mary Beth Layman, Special Programs Director for Vinton, and Mayor Brad Grose have spent countless hours working to pull the project together. The responsibility for completion of the project is transitioning to the newly hired assistant to the Town Manager, Ryan Spitzer, who will be the grant administrator.
The downtown revitalization project includes carrying out improvements to 11 building facades using CDBG and non-CDBG funds; setting up a loan fund for new and existing businesses; improving landscaping, lighting, sidewalks, and parking in the Farmer’s Market area; improving the crosswalk at Washington and Pollard Streets; constructing gateway improvements at Virginia Avenue and Pollard Streets; making landscape and streetscape improvements within the designated boundary area of downtown; and improving private properties.
The project also requires that at least four Full Time Equivalent (FTE) jobs be created within the loan process to new or existing businesses and of those, three must be for low or moderate income individuals (LMI) persons, according to federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) guidelines.
An Environmental Review to assess the impact of the project on the area must be completed and approved by the Virginia Department of Human Resources before the contract is signed, funds are released, and the project gets underway.
Once the contract is signed, the management team built from the group of stakeholders will meet on a monthly basis to assure that timelines are being maintained and will present updates to the DHCD.