New vision for Williamson Road

The new business association executive director has fresh ideas for the area

By Lindsey Kennett - Reporter

ROANOKE, Va. - The new leader of the Williamson Road Area Business Association, or WRABA, has some fresh ideas to improve the busy corridor.

Valerie Brown is the new executive director of WRABA. She says she would like Williamson Road to be more than a way to get from point A to point Z. Instead, she would like each stop along the way to be a destination.

Current improvement projects -- like increasing pedestrian safety and adding medians, bike paths and sidewalks -- are still in the early planning phases and could take years to complete. In the meantime, Brown wants to focus on attracting new businesses and beautifying storefronts.

"If we're happy and we're proud about who we are and what we do, it's really easy for someone to be happy about who we are and what we're doing for them," Brown says.

Others in the business community say more and more people are investing in the area.

"You can get everything you need: from cars to food to hardware," says William Farrell, the president of Berglund Chevrolet Buick.

"We've had several people in the last month or two approach us about wanting to look at purchasing property, renovating it and putting a new business on the road," says Gene McGuire, the director of WRABA.

Brown says there will be some bumps along the way.

"The challenge, the excitement of being able to bring life to an area -  that really, really excites me," said Brown.

She says she will have an open door policy for businesses and homeowners. She also says new businesses should look at moving to Williamson Road because there are a lot of available properties and there are grants available to improve storefronts.

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