Downtown Service District Expands

Sean Luther, president and CEO of Downtown Roanoke Incorporated.

by Valerie Garner

City Manager Also Recognized As GFOA President

Roanoke City Council has approved the expansion of the Downtown Service District to encompass the existing Carilion property that includes the clinic, Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute, Cambria Suites Hotel and vacant land that is east of Jefferson Street.

Sean Luther, president & CEO of Downtown Roanoke, Inc., expects the 72 parcels to generate $135,000 that will be used for promoting and servicing the  Downtown Service District. He said that the additional funds would also ensure continued operation of the Star Line Trolley and strengthen the relationship between Roanoke’s core and the Jefferson redevelopment area.

Justifying the predominantly Caucasian makeup of the residents of the downtown district, Luther and council stressed that the downtown 24011 zip code only had several dozen residents in the 2000 census.

There was no displacement of minorities only a filling of a void. Luther said, “Just because this is not a gentrifying district does not mean we are particularly satisfied with the diversity of the district.”

Luther said they were seeking a partnership with the city and the private sector to diversify downtown in unit ownership, income type, education and family so downtown “will be for all residents of the city.”

Mike Sutton of Blue Eagle Enterprises with properties in the Downtown Service District supported the extension of the district. “We are very aware of where our tax assessments go and we are comfortable with that … it is vital to the long-term success of our region,” said Sutton.

In other business, Roanoke City Manager Chris Morrill was recognized for becoming the Government Finance Officer Association’s 2012-2013 president at the association’s June 12 annual business meeting in Chicago, Illinois. In his GFOA speech, Morrill expressed his thanks to the mayor and city council for recognizing the value that his association with the GFOA can bring back to Roanoke.

He remarked “how popular with the media” he and other city managers had become in light of the current budgetary squeeze on local municipalities.

Morrill was congratulated by the business community at the City Market Building. Mayor Bowers read a resolution recognizing the honor. Bowers said Morrill brings credit to Roanoke. “We support you – we’re watching your back to make sure you are successful as president of the GFOA and as city manager of Roanoke,” said Bowers.

The purpose of the Government Finance Officers Association is to enhance and promote the professional management of governments for the public benefit by identifying and developing financial policies and best practices and promoting their use through education, training, facilitation of member networking and leadership.

The core objectives of the association are to enhance its members knowledge in public financial management by exercising leadership in research, recommended practice and policy development and information dissemination.

Morrill, with his family and seven other city staff members, attended the conference: City Treasurer Evelyn Powers, Finance Director Ann Shawver, Director of Management and Budget Amelia Merchant, Andrea Trent – Assistant Finance Director, Mike Shockley – Budget Administrator, Susan Lower – Real Estate Assessment Director and Kathy Cox – Assistant Director of Technology.