Economic Development Actions

Economic Development Actions

Implementation activities

Strategic Initiative:  Shifting Gears - New Economic Initiatives to target industry clusters: biotechnology, optics, information technology/software, and transportation-related manufacturing and services; Invest in critical amenities of entertainment, environment, and recreation; Diverse supply of housing; Must value lifelong learning and skills training.

Development of target sectors pursued; Amenities developed:  Greenway and trail system, Elmwood Park Amphitheater, Market Square, parks, library reconstructions, etc.

Housing Diversity:  each neighborhood has zoning patterns to enable development of a wide variety of housing types.

Workforce initiatives developed and continue.

Strategic Initiative:  Redeveloping Underutilized Commercial and Industrial Sites

Developed one of the most active Brownfield redevelopment programs on the east coast.   Secured $M in EPA assessment and cleanup grant funds.  Facilitated many redevelopment projects, including South Jefferson Redevelopment Area.

Strategic Initiative:  Selling Roanoke to Residents, Newcomers, and Visitors.  Many of Roanoke’s assets are well-kept secrets, even among native Roanokers. The challenge is getting the message out – and whom to tell. A brand name should be clearly recognizable, consistently applied, and regional in scope to encompass the best qualities of life in the Roanoke Valley.

Identified stable source of funding for Convention and Visitors Bureau; Regional Partnership outdoors branding; Virginia’s Blue Ridge branding.

ED A1. Develop and implement an economic development strategy that attracts, retains, and expands businesses in the targeted industries such as biotechnology, optics, information technology/software, and transportation-related manufacturing & services.

Initial economic development strategy developed with update in 2007.  Warehouse Row Business Center completed.  Established Technology Zone incentives.  Continued development in Riverside Center in accordance with development plan including opening of the Carilion Clinic (2009) and opening of VTC medical school/research facility in 2010.

Developed entrepreneurial program to encourage growth of local businesses.  EDA approved funds for two Market Study grants in 2010.  In addition, EDA funded TAP’s Business Seed micro-lending program for $30,000 (2010).

263 acres were added to the Enterprise Zone boundaries, expanding the opportunities for commercial and industrial property owners to receive grants for rehabilitation and construction.

Innovation Corridor under development.

ED A2. Expand participation in regional economic development efforts. Continue meetings with elected officials and administrative staff in neighboring localities to discuss regional efforts.

IEDC accreditation for Economic Development office in 2003 and on ongoing member of IEDC.  Ongoing communication with Roanoke Regional Partnership, VDBA, and Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP).

Regional collaboration projects such as Woodhaven property.

ED A3. Adopt the downtown plan, Outlook Roanoke Update, as a component of Vision 2001-2020.

Adopted May 20, 2002.  District concept from the plan being implemented incrementally.

Established these districts:

  • Market
  • Rail
  • West Station
  • Downtown Arts
  • Downtown West

ED A4. Support initiatives to develop a technology zone in the downtown that permits mixed-use developments containing offices, residential and commercial/retail support services.

City Council designated Roanoke's Technology Zone in September 2002.  Implemented WiFi expansion.

Innovation Corridor under development.

ED A5. Develop an entertainment strategy for the downtown market area.

A number of activities, events and festivals have been implemented and are ongoing between EventZone, DRI, P&R, ED, the various institutions in the area.  (e.g., Party in the Park, Fiddle Fest, outdoor dining programs).

Developing plan to further link HRCC and downtown to expanded exhibit space at the Civic Center and improve pedestrian access to entertainment opportunities at the Civic Center.

City Market District Plan addresses some elements of entertainment.

DRI is researching the development of appropriate avenues to manage the market on a 24/7 basis to provide events, entertainment and activity to strengthen downtown.

Century Plaza hosting cultural events with new amenities (2006) and City Market District Plan includes components for small-scale entertainment areas.

Center in the Square and City Market building designs approved. Center in the Square construction will begin in January 2011.  Market building construction planned for September 2010.  Both projects plan to revitalize the market area.

Top floor of Market Building upfitted as event/entertainment space (Charter Hall).

Market Square converted from a parking lot to a well-designed civic square.

ED A6. Pursue strategies to increase availability of specialized retail and live/work space in the downtown.

2005 Zoning Code added Live/Work Units and Mixed Use Buildings in Downtown,

Numerous mixed use buildings facilitated by historic tax credits.  Over 1,000 new residential units were developed since the adoption of this plan.

City Market District Plan (2006) and further implementation of Outlook Roanoke Update (2002) will spur further investment.

Completed downtown parking studies and implemented recommendations to increase on-street time in lower demand areas.  Smart Meters installed in Market area and on Franklin Rd. 

ED A7. Complete survey of historic structures in the downtown.

All eligible areas of Downtown have been surveyed and listed.

ED A8. Facilitate the development of significant regional attractions such as the IMAX Theater.

IMAX not pursued

Regional attractions developed:

Taubman Museum of Art (2008)

O. Winston Link Museum (2004)

Transportation Museum

Civic Center expansion/renovation, Special Events Center (2007)

Center in the Square renovations (2011)

Various private music venues (e.g., 202 Market, Kirk Avenue Music Hall (now The Spot), Blue 5, Metro, Martin’s etc)

Elmwood Park Amphitheater.

ED A9. Revise zoning ordinance to discourage demolition of downtown buildings being replaced by surface parking lots.

Zoning ordinance establishes maximum parking limits and designates surface parking lots as special exception use in Downtown district.

ED A10. Develop a "brand identity" for Roanoke. Coordinate with regional partners to launch a marketing campaign.


Branding Initiative implemented and logo adopted.  "Most Livable" posters.  Downtown banners in planning stages; Roanoke billboards; C2C Housing Design Competition drew international attention. City Manager gives out posters with awards at business breakfast meetings.  Brand and market City parking facilities to indicate point of difference, ease of accessibility to encourage their use by tourists.  Roanoke’s Star is Rising campaign and publication in US Airways magazine (2009).


Development of comprehensive wayfinding signage system. Use WiFi Zone web site to market and increase brand awareness.

ED A11. Identify and develop a consistent funding source for promotion of tourism, marketing, and special events.

1% of transient room tax is dedicated to marketing efforts of Convention & Visitors Bureau.  Local funding provided to EventZone to coordinate and promote downtown events.

ED A12. Develop and install directional signs that are clear, consistent, and strategically placed to identify major attractions that capture tourists.

Roanoke Valley cultural institutions developing master plan with strategic signage element.

PW working with Blue Ridge Parkway on signage strategy for area between BRP and Roanoke.

P&R creating wayfinding signage plan for greenways, parks, and trails.

PW working with VDOT, CVB, DRI and cultural organizations on a new wayfinding signage system (implemented fall 2008).

City of Roanoke Parking working to mesh its signage and marketing efforts with comprehensive wayfinding signage planning.

ED A13. Provide transportation connections (i.e., shuttle service) to multiple sites such as Explore Park, Carvins Cove, and Mill Mountain.

Not pursued

ED A14. Promote greenways and linkages to the downtown and surrounding areas.

Mill Mountain Greenway complete


Lick Run greenway completed from HRCC to Valley View.


Improved landscaping along Lick Run Greenway between HRCC/Visitors Center and the Civic Center (2008).

Upgrades of directional signage on Market Square to direct visitors to greenway connections, downtown businesses, and other attractions.  Pedestrian scale sign project under development (2008/2009).

New maps created, distributed and posted on-line (2008).

ED A15. Increase efforts to provide tourist information for residents and visitors.

A number of informational kiosks and web based information is available for visitors and residents along with the Visitor Center on Shenandoah Avenue.

Additional expansion of the WiFi is being explored.  DRI Visitors’ Guide was published and 50,000 copies distributed. Information for the Arts Council’s kiosk in Wachovia Plaza to be updated.

Parking information available on the City web site and maps are available in all parking locations with attendants. All parking staff trained by CVB as tourist ambassadors.

ED A16. Expand the current marketing strategy to target young families and young adults. Strengthen and expand the newcomer’s club; create a junior newcomer’s club that involves children and teenagers.

Component of P&R Master Plan developed with youth initiative program and new innovative family recreation programs. PBD operates a program to welcome new residents.

Libraries undertaking adult programs such as independent film series and classes on wireless Internet and technical assistance services for WiFi zone as well as emerging artists program in main library.

Using YouTube clips, pod casts and other marketing and other information dissemination target to young adults.

Holiday Career & Lifestyle Fair held in December targeting college students home for winter break has become an annual event.

Tours of the City’s downtown and selected businesses with organizations at local colleges.

ED A17. Develop a youth hostel or other budget hotel accommodation in the downtown to encourage hikers and Appalachian Trail enthusiasts to visit Roanoke.

No hostels developed. However; budget accommodations in downtown are plentiful in the form of homestays.

ED A18. Identify underutilized industrial sites and promote redevelopment as part of Roanoke’s economic development strategy.

City-Wide Brownfield Plan adopted by City Council (2008).  Two additional EPA grants awarded in 2008 (total funding ~$2.2MM).  Current efforts focused on South Jefferson Redevelopment Area (Virginia Scrap acquisition by RRHA) and Mountain View/Norwich Corridor (plan adopted 2008).   Inventory completed for Shenandoah Ave, corridor as part of Loudon-Melrose neighborhood plan update. 

Brownfield Assessment Grants ongoing.  Revolving Loan Fund issued through EDA – applicants for loans/grants ongoing.

Areas identified for redevelopment:

Cleveland Avenue /Black Dog area

Wasena - east of Main St.

Northwestern edge of Downtown 5th to 10th.

Campbell Ave. SE

Shenandoah Ave. NW

ED A19. Support the redevelopment of the South Jefferson Redevelopment Area (SJRA) by coordinating with participating organizations such as Carilion, Virginia Tech, and the University of Virginia.

RRHA has completed all land acquisition.   Facilitated environmental due diligence, site cleanup planning and cleanup.

ED A20. Investigate a strategy for funding streetscape improvements in the Franklin Road gateway corridor (between SJRA and Wonju Street) to stimulate private sector development.

No specific City initiated projects.  Private development of Ivy Market (with City incentives) improved street appearance at Franklin Road and Wonju Street.  Enterprise Zone 1A provides incentives for facade improvements.

ED A21. Revise zoning regulations to encourage increased use of planned unit developments.

Zoning ordinance implements by (1) eliminating minimum acreage requirements, (2) removed nearly all dimensional requirements (3) removed parking minimums, and (4) expanded the range and mix of uses.

ED A22. Promote and market the Enterprise Zone program to existing and prospective businesses.

ED provides materials, leads workshops/ seminars on business incentives, provides press releases to update local media and visit business to explain programs.  ED is working with departments to communicate program provisions. 

ED also works with local RRP, DRI, WRABA & SBDC to market programs.

ED A23. Increase the role of the Industrial Development Authority and other related industrial redevelopment organizations for development of plans for areas such as the West End, Plantation Road, and Shenandoah Avenue corridors.

Changed name to Economic Development Authority to broaden scope.

City and EDA executed an agreement to manage Brownfield Revolving Loan Fund program and assist with other components of program implementation.

EDA issued 3 grants, totaling $49,500 and two loans totaling $75,000 from its own funds to promote economic development in the City. Issued a $200,000 grant through the brownfield RLF fund.

35 Enterprise Zone grants, rebates, and/or real estate exemptions (CY 2010)

EDA provided funding to Chamber of Commerce, TAP Business Seed and Roanoke River Associates LLC ($54,000).

ED A24. Develop an economic development strategy to attract, retain, and grow technology businesses. Designate a lead agency to coordinate programs, resources, and planning for development of technology businesses. Create a web site that promotes Roanoke to technology companies.

Technology Zone implemented (2002).  DOT mapped and published fiber optic accessibility on web. 

Series of entrepreneurial programs developed and introduced (2007).  Entrepreneurial zone implemented with EDA, Virginia Tech and others (2008).

Two grants issued by EDA, totaling $7,000 for VTKnowledgeworks program. (2010)

Façade Grant, Development Fee Rebate and Fire water-sewer hookup rebate currently underway for Meridium.

Developed performance agreement with United Healthcare which assisted in creating 125 new full-time jobs and retained over 300 full-time jobs.  United Healthcare eligible for state and local enterprise zone grants and are working with dept of business assistance.

ED A25. Establish technology zones that provide special tax incentives, expedited development, and economic development assistance. Designate a section of downtown as the primary technology zone and key village centers as secondary technology zones.

City Council designated Roanoke's Technology Zone (2002) with incentives for new and expanding businesses.  Potential expansion into some village centers in future years. 

ED & PBD are actively marketing expedited permitting to promote and encourage business retention/development.

Innovation Corridor under consideration.

ED A26. Identify underutilized commercial sites and promote revitalization.

PBD identifying in neighborhood/area plans; Zoning ordinance encourages redevelopment by increasing development potential of properties (2005).  Enterprise Zone amendment to add various underutilized properties.  Brownfield program is creating a property inventory.

Economic development staff member focused on commercial development.  Planning efforts to focus on specific areas once all neighborhood plans are updated.  First area plan adopted in September 2008.

Created new Urban Flex zoning district, which creates a broad land use palette and expands opportunities for redevelopment (2009)

Rezoned Cleveland Avenue area to UF (2009)

Rezoned Wasena area to UF (2011)

Considering area northwest of downtown for conversion from I-1, Light Industrial, to UF.

ED A27. Revise zoning and develop guidelines that encourage maximum use of commercial and industrial sites by addressing setbacks, lot coverage, parking requirements, and landscaping to encourage development of commercial businesses in centers versus strip developments.

New zoning ordinance implements (2005).

New Urban Flex zoning district allows a mix of uses and development criteria aimed at encouraging investment in underperforming industrial corridors.

ED A28. Initiate small-area plans for mixed use (i.e., residential, commercial, and industrial) and industrial redevelopment in the West End, Plantation Road, and Shenandoah Avenue corridors.

Identifying locations in neighborhood plans (e.g., Wasena, West End, Williamson Road).

Completed Mountain View/Norwich Corridor Plan, adopted September 2008.

Completed Rail Corridor Plan 2012

ED A29. Initiate small-area plans and appropriate rezoning for the Crossroads area to consider a mix of high-density residential, commercial, and research and development.

Redevelopment of Crossroads was identified as a priority Strategic Initiative in Williamson Road Area Plan.  A portion has been converted to large-scale office space (Advance Auto).  New ownership is considering options to fill the space and create additional development along Hershberger Road. 

Advance Auto implemented an additional $4.5 million renovation in the Crossroads Mall complex.  Other recent improvements include a new Gold’s Gym, and regional state office presence (workforce center, etc.)

New retail establishments and outparcel development with restaurants.

No residential or research.

ED A30. Develop incentives and programs to encourage redevelopment activities that create attractive commercial corridors in areas of strip development and underutilized commercial centers.

The façade grant program and Enterprise Zone incentives can be used when applicable.

Specific changes in 2008 amended boundaries to target underutilized property on Orange Avenue, Thirlane/Airport Road corridor, and Cleveland Avenue.

Funded a Node Development concept for Williamson Road.

Scoping streetscape and transportation improvements for Williamson Road.

No significant redevelopment activities have occurred.

ED A31. Revise zoning ordinance to permit small-acreage, mixed-use (flex-space) development.

Zoning ordinance facilitates by reducing acreage requirements for Planned Unit Development districts and expands range of uses in Mixed PUD to permit primarily commercial development options with some residential elements (2005).  Expands options for office uses in Industrial district.

Established Urban Flex district as an implementation tool (2009)

ED A32. Revise zoning ordinance to permit home offices in certain residential areas.

Zoning ordinance refines regulations regarding home occupations (2005).  Removed requirement for special exception for personal service home occupations.

ED A33. Explore redevelopment of areas identified for industrial, commercial, or mixed-use development or reuse.

Identification through neighborhood/area plans (neighborhood plans completed in 2008).  City-Wide brownfield plan identifies broad corridors, reuse options and implementation tools.  (2008). Specific strategies need development upon completion of neighborhood plans.  

Established Urban Flex district as implementation tool (2009)

Downtown and South Jefferson are the only areas to see significant redevelopment.

ED A34. Invest in education and training to create a labor force that can succeed in an information-based economy.

Public Library system provides ongoing life-long learning opportunities such as free computer training classes and employment-seeking information courses.

Roanoke City Schools - Dept of Adult Education offers literacy and job skills classes to prepare persons for employment.

New Workforce Center opened in Crossroads location to target workforce training/assistance.  Organizations located in the center include VEC, Goodwill, VWCC, etc.

Goodwill training center at campus on Melrose Ave. and 24th St. CDBG and Enterprise Zone Façade grants assisting the renovation cost.  The return on investment of the CDBG funds included the creation of 12 new jobs.

The Library is a recipient of an Ameri-Corps grant to increase Computer Literacy in the community. With this grant the Library has been able to increase computer classes from 16 a month to 80 classes a month. By working with Goodwill and the Job Force Center there is a strong focus on preparing citizens to seek successful employment.


ED A35. Support and expand workforce development efforts that link economic development agencies and educational institutions. Develop work/study (co-operative) programs linking existing industry, high schools, colleges, and economic development agencies.

ED staff has served on TAP Workforce Development Committee, NCTC, Blue Ridge Technical Academy Advisory Council, and the Career and Technical Education Council of the Roanoke City Public Schools.

Developed strong partnership with Virginia Department of Business Assistance.  ED staff works with VDBA to identify and educate potential VJIP applicants.

Brownfield program included an integrated job training component (completed 2009) – working with Total Action Against Poverty on follow-up program.

ED A36. Encourage village centers through identification of potential locations in neighborhood plans.

Centers are identified and mapped as part of neighborhood/area plans.  Zoning map expands the use of Commercial-Neighborhood District in village centers and to create nodal development along corridors (2005).

ED A37. Develop design guidelines for village centers.

Commercial design guidelines included in Gilmer and Williamson Road plans.  Zoning ordinance includes basic design elements for scale, location (setback) and façade treatment in commercial neighborhood districts (village centers) (2005). Other guidelines may be developed as part of specific area plans.

Developed an Urban Design Manual

Adopted H-1 Architectural Guidelines for downtown.

ED A38. Revise zoning ordinance to permit mixed-use residential/ commercial development and live/ work space in village centers and on the periphery of the central commercial areas.

Appropriate locations mapped as part of neighborhood/area plans.  Zoning ordinance implements by reducing acreage requirements for Planned Unit Development districts, and identifying several districts that permit live/work space (2005).