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Aug 03

Celebrating Neighborhoods

Posted on August 3, 2021 at 5:24 PM by Melinda Mayo

Roanoke has longed prided itself on a diverse collection of outstanding neighborhoods.  Whether one wants to live downtown, in the midst of one of our village centers, in early 20th Century homes in historic neighborhoods, on a large lot, or in the shadow of Mill Mountain, a neighborhood exists for you.  The vitality of these neighborhoods does not happen by accident, but rather through a combination of pride in ownership and private investment, City stewardship, and public investment and leadership by the many organizations that exist to protect and promote the integrity of each neighborhood.  This post will highlight a few of these.

Roanoke Neighborhood Advocates

The Roanoke Neighborhood Advocates (RNA) is a nine-member committee created by City Council.  Members of the RNA include citizens representing the interests of the neighborhood organizations, the private sector, nonprofit service organizations, local government, and interested citizens. Five of the nine members are appointed by City Council, with the remaining four seats selected by the RNA appointees based on input from recognized City neighborhood organizations. Every so often, the RNA is required to present a strategic plan to Council that will guide their actions for the upcoming year or so.  At a recent July City Council meeting, they shared their mission, goals, and objectives for the upcoming year.  You may find out more about RNA and their plans by using this link.

Neighborhood Groups, Associations, and Watches

In addition to the RNA, Roanoke is home to a number of groups formed to support neighborhoods.   These range from formal neighborhood groups and associations to members of the City’s Neighborhood Watch program. Many of these groups receive support from the City through the Community Engagement Office and its Neighborhood Services Coordinator.  Neighborhood Services helps foster a sense of community by partnering with citizens to ensure high-quality services are provided, neighborhood groups are supported, and neighborhood issues are addressed and responded to in a timely manner. 

Neighborhood Services also serves as a liaison for connecting citizens to the information they need for improving their neighborhood and quality of life, and uses feedback received to keep City staff informed of their needs and those of their neighborhood.  In addition, the City provides limited financial support to these groups via the Neighborhood Development Grant Program.  Funded by a combination of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Funds and City General Funds, the program creates opportunities for neighborhood organizations to make their neighborhoods safer, cleaner, and healthier by providing them with the resources to achieve their goals.

Annually, the City and RNA recognize the contributions of these groups and those who make them successful via an annual awards program.   This program recognizes and honors the outstanding contributions, excellence, and accomplishments achieved by neighborhood organizations and civic individuals who have partnered with City departments, schools, nonprofits, businesses, institutions and others to:

  1. Make physical and/or social improvements to our neighborhoods,
  2. Connect neighbors and/or neighborhoods with one another, and/or
  3. Build the capacity of their neighborhood organization to better serve our community.

Information about all of these efforts may be found here

Activities and Events

In addition to the programs noted above, the City joins its neighborhoods throughout the year for a number of events and celebrations.  This week, the City will join neighborhoods in celebrating the National Night Out program.   National Night Out is an annual campaign founded by the National Association of Town Watch (NATW) in the early 1980’s to celebrate the successes resulting from community partnerships between law enforcement agencies, neighborhood organizations, neighborhood watch groups, elected officials, and others in helping to make communities safer and more caring places to live, work, play and invest in. National Night Out is always celebrated on the first Tuesday in August.  This year, the 38th annual National Night Out will take place Tuesday, Aug. 3.  

The City also supports neighborhoods coming together to share experiences and learn from one another.  One such example is the Virginia Statewide Neighborhood Conference, an organization long supported by neighborhoods in Roanoke, with our very own Estelle McCadden of the Melrose-Rugby Neighborhood serving as its current President.  This year’s conference will be held virtually in September.  Additional information about this organization and the annual conference may be found at this link.   

The City has, for more than 20 years, focused a large portion of its federal community development funds received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on a specific neighborhood for an extended period of time.  This “target area” program has benefitted the West End, Melrose-Orange, and currently, the Belmont-Fallon neighborhoods.  Over the next year, City staff will work with neighborhood residents in the Belmont-Fallon neighborhood on a plan addressing:

  • Construction of new houses on vacant lots
  • Rehabilitation of existing houses both vacant and occupied
  • Assistance to homeowners for minor repairs
  • Street and sidewalk improvements
  • Community cleanups
  • Enhanced code enforcement

Additional information about this effort may be found at this website.  

Neighborhoods are where we all live and ultimately impact the quality of life most of us experience in Roanoke.  Their success is our success.  We have a great collection of neighborhoods in the City and, more importantly, we have a great collection of folks working hard every day to ensure our neighborhoods remain strong, vital, and enjoyable places to live.

-- Bob Cowell

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