Virginia Tech students present improvement plans for Roanoke neighborhood

ROANOKE, Va. – Erin Halliday is a student at Virginia Tech. But Monday night she took on a new title -- architect. 

As part of a collaboration between Virginia Tech and the city of Roanoke, Erin and some of her fellow architecture students presented ideas and plans for improving the Melrose and Orange Avenue areas.

"Not a lot of us have actually designed something and then presented it in front of people who might actually be using it someday, so that's been really cool for all of us here," said Halliday.

This semester, the students were given a chance to use their classroom skills in the real world. From designing bus stops to creating crosswalks and upgrading retail spaces, the goal was to find real-world solutions to some problems in the northwest part of the city. And it all came together Monday night when the students presented their plans to community members.

"This is an opportunity for them to learn about architecture by actually practicing a little bit. And also a chance to give back some of their time and talent to the community," said Kevin Jones, a professor at Virginia Tech.

Beginning in 2015, the city identified the Melrose-Orange target area to be the focus of improvements for the next few years. At Monday's meeting, dozens of residents voiced their own opinions about the students' ideas and also their goals for the place they call home.

"We'd like to see just simply a much nicer-looking place, a more comfortable place and certainly safer place," said Ellis Holmes, a resident of the Melrose-Rugby neighborhood.

Now the students will take the feedback from the meeting and finalize their plans, which will then be sent to the city.