ROANOKE, Va. – Some new businesses are beginning to crop up in Roanoke’s Melrose neighborhood. This comes as a six-year revitalization program is coming to an end.
While city leaders said it will be a few years before they can truly measure success, one new business owner said it made all the difference in where he decided to open up shop.
Darren Wiggins owns Jersey Water Ice on 11th Street. He brings a taste of his hometown, Atlantic City, NJ, to Roanoke with water ice and hoagies. He moved to the area about a decade ago and said he was excited to open his business in the neighborhood despite other businesses continually passing it over.
“Northwest has welcomed Jersey Water Ice with open arms, this community is the community that we live in,” Wiggins said.
Keith Holland is the community resources program administrator for Roanoke City. A large map is taped up on a wall in his office downtown. It’s full of pins and each one represents success in the Melrose-Orange Target Area. With local partners, they’ve rehabbed 100 homes, built a new library and made street improvements among a laundry list of others.
Since 2014 the city’s spent more than $8 million in federal dollars in the neighborhood as a catalyst for growth.
“Housing is, housing is so important that’s where jobs go at the end of the day,” Holland said. “[We] concentrate some public funds into some housing and infrastructure in order to encourage private investment.”
Now the target area is coming to an end as the city prepares to move into the Belmont-Fallon Target Area in Southeast Roanoke. Previous target areas include Gainsboro, Hurt Park and West End. Holland said it’s still too early to measure success, but seeing locals invest in their own neighborhood is a great sign.
“It’s too early to tell right now but I think, pay attention to the next few years how much private investment,” Holland said.
The village center on 11th Street is slowly coming back to life. Alongside Jersey Water Ice is Humble Hustle, a local clothing store that provides community and youth enrichment programs started a few years ago. And local developer John Garland has invested in the corridor over the last few years.
Wiggins said he alongside the others are ready to take the baton and continue pushing forward.
“The neighborhood is definitely progressing; it’s definitely moving forward in a good direction and that definitely had something to do with me coming here and just seeing the value in 11th street and Northwest,” Wiggins said.