This blog includes news about City Hall, city schools and other 22401 news.Pamela Gould reports on City Hall. You can reach her at 540-735-1972 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Robyn Sidersky reports on city schools. You can reach her at 540-374-5413 or email@example.com.
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I went back to my hometown this weekend. Downtown Winston-Salem, N.C., was not exactly a happening place when I was growing up there. But on Friday night, its streets were packed (not crowded–packed) up through midnight with multiple stages hosting simultaneous concerts. Rock, country, R&B, beach music, you name it filled the streets, and so did hordes of people buying food, beverages and all kinds of other stuff that was for sale. Special events like Friday’s "Rock the Block" have been a big part of downtown Winston’s rebirth. Since I’ve been sitting in meetings that deal in one way or another with downtown revitalization since I got out of college, I pitched a travel story on what that city has done for its central business district. Look for it in Sunday’s Travel section.
A few stories from around the state this weekend that you might want to check out:
- If you’ve followed the ongoing discussion about what do with the parking rules for downtown to make them more urban-friendly, you’ll see a lot of familiar ideas in this story from the Associated Press about how Washington, D.C., is considering scrapping the parking requirements in its zoning ordinance. In addition, officials there are considering limiting the number of parking spaces developers can build. Some say building parking spaces in tight downtowns just encourages people to bring more cars there, adding to gridlock in an environment that some feel should put pedestrians first, and taking up valuable land for unsightly parking lots. The flip side of that argument becomes clear pretty quickly when you drive to a downtown and spend 30 minutes circling your destination before you find a place to park.
- Remember the big debate over whether the city should strike a three-year, $900,000 agreement with the Fredericksburg Expo Center to help it expand its operations into more lucrative group conference events? That idea was eventually scrapped, and the Expo property was drawn into the Tax-Increment Financing district created to distribute incentives to the Kalahari Resorts project. Mason Adams of the Roanoke Times wrote this weekend about how Roanoke’s publicly owned civic center isn’t doing so well. Public subsidies for this $14 million complex have averaged around $1 million a year. They’ve gone as high as $3 million to cover debt service and lagging revenues, and are projected to be about $2.7 million this year. The city of Salem’s civic center is also getting a subdidy of about $1.1 million a year. Click here for the story, which talks about how Roanoke is seeking a private firm to take over management of its center. Adams includes this quote from Roanoke’s mayor about how he feels about the taxpayer-financed facility: "We’re stuck with it and have to make sure it’s going to be a successful operation."
- To return to the downtown theme, how many of these quotes from a story in today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch about a bus tour officials took of that downtown sound familiar if you’ve followed downtown redevelopment efforts here:
"Cities live and breathe solely on the basis of how many people they can attract downtown, and not just during the times of 9 to 5," said Daniel Moore, who works for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and spoke during yesterday’s bus tour.
"We’ve lost a lot of our architecture to accommodate parking," [Planning Director Rachel] Flynn said during the tour.
"We also want to reverse the trend of turning our backs to the river," Moore said. "The river is really this wonderful gem."