Rail Corridor Revitalization Area

This project is complete.

Questions/comments should be directed to B.T. Fitzpatrick, City Planner/GIS Analyst at 540-853-1334 or email Fitzpatrick.
The City was awarded a $175,000 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Brownfields Area-Wide Planning Pilot Program grant for Roanoke's "Rail Corridor Planning Area" in 2010. EPA grant funding was directed to brownfields-impacted sites within the corridor. The grant funding resulted in an area-wide plan informing the assessment, cleanup and reuse of brownfields properties while promoting area-wide revitalization. EPA selected 23 pilot projects across the country and the City of Roanoke is proud to be one of the recipients of this award.
Rail Corridor
The City hired CWS Consulting Group to lead the project planning process. The project team was led by Chris Steele of CWS Consulting Group, and included:
Steps to Revitalize
The plan outlines key recommendations for the City's 1st steps in revitalizing the Rail Corridor which include:
  • Developing a full brownfield inventory
  • Engaging directly with the property owners representing vacant properties within the Rail Corridor
  • Completing and disseminating marketing materials for vacant and under used properties within the Rail Corridor
  • Developing a neighborhood cleanup program
  • Developing a more comprehensive database of Rail Corridor Properties
  • Engaging local businesses on skills required and outreach efforts
  • Rezoning key areas of the rail corridor - this will create specific transition areas between residential and industrial use
  • Developing a "skills catalog" - prepare a directory of skills held by the labor force in proximity to the Rail Corridor that will help to both identify future industrial targets and also enhance local and regional marketing efforts.
Project Description
This project targeted the Rail Corridor Planning Area which is a discrete portion of the Rail Corridor delineated in the City-Wide Brownfield Redevelopment Plan (PDF). This plan built on previous neighborhood planning efforts in Hurt Park, Loudon-Melrose, Gilmer, and West End as follows:
  • Loudon-Melrose/Shenandoah West Neighborhood Plan
  • Gilmer Neighborhood Plan
  • Hurt Park/Mountain View/West End Neighborhood Plan
  • Hurt Park Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy Area (NRSA) Plan
These provide an overall plan for the neighborhoods, particularly from a residential perspective as most participation in these planning processes comes from residents and neighborhood organizations. City staff largely develops economic development elements in the plans. These plans were adopted before the City developed a brownfield program. They identify underused industrial property as an issue but do not provide significant policy on best reuse scenarios or specific actions to put the properties back into productive use.

Through the Brownfield Program, some initial efforts have been pursued in the planning corridor. These include the development of a City-Wide Petroleum Inventory that identifies historic gas stations, auto repair facilities and the like that may represent reuse opportunities. In a similar effort an inventory of brownfield sites was performed in the Loudon-Melrose and Gilmer neighborhoods as part of an update to the Loudon-Melrose plan.

The Rail Corridor Plan is building on these existing efforts to create a holistic plan that will transform the entire corridor in a manner that benefits residents and business owners in the area. The City hired CWS Consulting Group to work with the partnership to develop a well balanced and sustainable plan for the corridor. In addition to basic land use, the CWS team provided expertise in evaluating economic conditions, determining best uses based on current and expected market conditions, developing strategies for transitioning uses and other specialties not possessed by City staff. Thus a model plan was created that can be adapted for other parts of the City.

Community Involvement
Involvement of the community was a key element throughout the planning process. An engaged public is the only way to develop an inclusive plan that will receive support for actual implementation. Public involvement took the form of open public meetings and stakeholder meetings to solicit support from specific sectors (residents, business owners, property owners, developers, realtors, etc.) regarding specific issues. Meetings were held in various locations in the corridor to provide easy access and opportunity to comment and provide input for the plan.

Input from residents, business owners, and property owners in the corridor was a critical element in determining what is important in the community and what is desired for the future. Input from outside developers, realtors, etc. was also important to gain a better understanding of what is needed to generate private sector investment in the corridor.

Support from the community was sought throughout the project to gain an initial vision and then to flesh out details as the plan is developed. This created a core group of interested parties in the corridor to work with the City and its partners to implement the plan.
The "Rail Corridor Planning Area" covers approximately 425 acres excluding the rail yard that bisects the area. The corridor stretches from 5th Street, northwest and southwest on its eastern edge to 24th Street, northwest and southwest on its western edge. The corridors southern boundary follows Patterson Avenue, Southwest and the northern boundary follows Loudon Avenue, Northwest.

The area includes portions of the Gilmer, Loudon-Melrose, Hurt Park, and West End neighborhoods. Numerous small brownfields are located throughout the corridor with historic uses ranging from:
  • Automotive Repair
  • Contractors Shops
  • Lumber Yards
  • Manufacturers
  • Oil Distributors
  • Scrap Yards
  • Steel Fabrication
Rail Corridor Map
There are approximately 60 brownfield eligible properties and sites within the corridor. A map (PDF) is available for download.