New development plan revealed for Melrose Avenue corridor

The group Emerging Leaders in Architecture created plan for street improvements

ROANOKE, Va. – Community members engaged in a discussion in northwest Roanoke Monday about how to revitalize the area.

A team of architects worked throughout the year pro-bono to create a community design for the future of the Melrose Avenue corridor.

Members of the Richmond group Emerging Leaders in Architecture said through community input, they tried to develop real, achievable plans for road design and community development. They displayed their ideas for a crowd of dozens, but afterwards WSLS found there is still lingering skepticism about whether these solutions are addressing the right problems.

Dozens of people living in neighborhoods along Melrose Avenue gathered at the Goodwill Center Monday to learn what might become the future of the area. People like Stan Hale, who has lived here for more than 60 years.

"I'm looking forward to seeing where it's going to go. I always want to keep it on the positive, in a positive sense," Hale said.

Hale said that positivity comes from what he's already seen proposed for the area, like a new community center. The team of architects took a closer look at streets, and making northwest more culturally vibrant.

"The idea that the neighborhood is a place where people can express their creativity, where new ideas are shown and celebrated. That was something that people seemed to take a lot of interest in," architect Michael Spory said.

Colorful sidewalks.

Flowers at intersections.

New bus stop shelters.

Hale said he didn't have a great first impression.

"I was a bit concerned. I'm not sure the tactics that they're proposing will actually help," Hale said.

Hale said, aside from the artwork, he's worried proposed changes to the road itself might be ineffective.

"With them mentioning changing that light to a roundabout, I don't know. We've got some talking to do," Hale said.

Police have also been tracking high amounts of violent crime in the area throughout the year. Lt. Jason Holt says beautifying the community might bring unexpected benefits.

"You could go back to the broken window theory. If the window is broken and there's more tendency if you don't replace it and don't fix it up to continue more windows are broken. So you spruce up the windows, spruce up the outside, and yes it's more inviting and criminals normally stay away," Holt said.

Hale said, while he still has reservations, he's glad people are working to make his community better.

"With a reasonable amount of creativity, anything is possible. We just have to see which way we go with it," Hale said.

City planner Katharine Gray said those crosswalks, bike lanes, flowers, and bus shelters have the potential to be approved in next year's budget. That's something the city will begin taking a look at next month.