Livable Roanoke Valley Summit Offers Valuable Input For Future

The Partnership for a Livable Roanoke Valley held there 2018 Livable Roanoke Valley Summit on March 30th. The Partnership collected input from a large cross section of the Valley that was provided during the group exercise held at the end of the Summit.

During the group exercise each participant had an opportunity to:

  • “vote” on the most important strategies and action steps associated with the Livable Roanoke Valley Plan,
  • comment on possible strategies/action steps not currently listed in the Plan but will become more important in the region over the next 5 to 10 years, and
  • review the eleven key issues that were found very important to the region during the 2012 survey conducted by VA Tech as a part of the planning process for the Roanoke Valley Livability Plan and to rank those issues as to their importance to the region today.

Results of Livable Roanoke Valley Summit Group Exercises:

Participants were asked to “vote” on strategies and action steps they thought were important to the region’s future.  The results are provided below.

Economic Development

Create jobs, increase incomes and grow businesses to improve the quality of life for all residents of the Roanoke region.

Invest in Regional Infrastructure

Strategies Count
Provide large, market-ready industrial sites and buildings 6
Redevelop small industrial sites 14
Provide high speed broadband 14
Improve the mobility for freight, travelers and the workforce 6


Innovate through Higher Education

Strategies   Count
Host a regional internship fair   1
Bring alumni back to the region   12
Create an online academic clearinghouse   0
  TOTAL 13


Cultivate and Market Outdoor and Cultural Amenities

Strategies   Count
Enhance sports tournaments infrastructure   8
Package and sell current outdoor amenities   9
Create outdoor ambassadors   5
Create a premier outdoor adventure destination   17
Provide more unique accommodations   7
Advance arts and culture   9
  TOTAL 55



Is there a strategy under the goal that is not on this list but is something we need to focus on NOW?

  • Increase availability of recycling sorting facilities and resources. More government supported programs. – New carrier at airport, to lower cost and improve accessibility to airport.
  • Directly recruit businesses to community.
  • Provide high speed internet, both residential and commercial/industrial, throughout the region. (including all of Roanoke and Botetourt Counties)
  • Work with Craig/Botetourt Cooperation to provide the last mile connectivity.
  • Invest in regional transportation Infrastructure

What in the strategy is not on this list but is something that will be important in the next 5 – 10 years?

  • Focus on keeping skilled people
  • Raising education levels, increase numbers of those with college degrees
  • A job mentoring program for potential new hires/recent college graduates
  • Prepare for advancing technology and produce a tech-friendly space for new work and industry opportunities Comments:
  • (Identify wellness funding and other resources) The need for HRV & Food RX to create a sustainability plan and a plan to expand beyond the current structure. Start to look for other ways for organizations within HRV to partner and do more outcome programs besides just Food RX.
  • A strategy that I think will be important in the next 5-10 years (if not now) is to minimize the focus on large industrial sites for economic development, and focus on vacant buildings in urban areas for “Smart” jobs. An example is the Heronimus Bldg. in downtown Roanoke.  It seems that from an economic development standpoint, we would be ahead of the game if we bought a building that has been vacant for as long as I can remember and use it to encourage the Smart jobs everyone seems to encourage.
  • Add a goal to include previous transportation goals for reducing congestion and improving air quality. How we move, where we locate our industrial sites, and how we access work (more people will be telecommuting) is important.  Example:  Wood Haven is a bicycle route.  Additional traffic to an industrial site will make the road hazardous for bicyclists unless there are accommodations recognizing bicycling as a means of transportation.
  • Valley Metro needs to review and if necessary revise their transit philosophy. The localities should take back the agency that has become a bureaucratic monster with a ravenous appetite.  The pay scale should be flipped.  It is the drivers who are on the front line of service – 7 day service, extended hours, less wait time, revamp the hub system and add a circle route to shopping centers.  There needs to be a renewed committee with stakeholders including more elderly members.  The art on the bus is a good start to encourage bus use by all people.  Example – Lynchburg has a program to donate a can of food and ride free for a day.  Roanoke has RIDE Smart Challenge in May to help reduce air pollution. Local leaders are encouraged to participate.  Maybe promote participation from elected officials to see if they can get where they want to go without a motor vehicle.
  • Greenway system was proposed as an alternative transportation corridor to connect communities in Roanoke – the intent was to build bridges and break down barriers among residents. The greenway accommodations on the Valley View Interchange provided persons access across I-581. The greenway “connector” helped prevent people from getting killed on I-581 and to access jobs, services and other neighborhoods.
  • Expand the Greenway system to all neighborhoods.
  • Connect neighborhoods, regions and the Commonwealth by alternative transportation options. 

Workforce Development

Provide access to job training and educational advancement by fostering a culture of lifelong learning for people of all ages and abilities.

Align workforce and economic development network

Strategies Count
Form a regional workforce and economic development network 12
Develop and maintain a data exchange 3
Create industry sector partnerships 11
Create relevant career pathways 19
Track outcomes of network and partnerships 5


Prepare students for careers in high demand

Strategies   Count
Form a regional task force   1
Develop feasibility analysis of regional program   0
Engage industry and employers   23
Create career and technical ambassadors   9
  TOTAL 33



Is there a strategy under the goal that is not on the list but is something we need to focus on NOW?

  • Hire from within the Valley – Identify and promote the under employed so that the unemployed can get those jobs.
  • Continue marketing the high quality of life
  • Is there anything being done with apprenticeships and non-traditional methods for education and beginning career paths?

What in the strategy is not on this list but is something that will be important in the next 5 – 10 years?

  • Direct recruitment of businesses
  • A job mentoring program for potential new hires/recent college graduates
  • High tech applications in health care
  • Ensure existing workforce is ready to adapt
  • Need to address drug addiction to reduce workforce loss.


  • Two other meetings were held on Friday morning, March 31 (2018). A “Reading celebration” was held at the library and another was held at the Hurt Park job fair.  Both groups are working to address the future of workforce.  For residents to succeed and have hope to participate in the economy of the future, they will need computers and reliable/affordable access to information.  People of all backgrounds should have equal opportunity to succeed.
  • Roanoke needs to understand that the economy is driven by access. Without a reliable private vehicle, you’re not going to go anywhere – to work, to the grocery store, or to a safer community to live.  It is not geographic or race that separate the haves from the have nots – it is economics.
  • The school system Century 21 is an excellent program. EVERYONE should be able to participate regardless of family income.  Kids need to work together. We need equal rights. To build the next economy we need to stimulate thinking about equality.  Real life problems can be solved if identified.             

Healthy Roanoke Valley

Mobilize community resources to improve access to care, coordination of services, and promote a culture of wellness.

Coordinate healthcare resources

Strategies   Count
Define and develop coordination of care best practices   16
Enlist local partners   2
Form a coordination of care forum   3
  TOTAL 21


Improve access to healthcare services

Strategies   Count
Identify provider capacity needs   3
Advocate for a health information exchange   4
Create a community dental clinic   12
  TOTAL 19


Broaden wellness support services

Strategies   Count
Address obesity   13
Reduce risky behaviors in youth (and adults)   14
Identify wellness funding and other resources   10
Promote active living   18
  TOTAL 55


Comments from boards:

  • Address the issue of safety. People need to feel safe to use facilities and be outside – Greenways to all neighborhoods.
  • Build/connect neighborhoods to industrial work sites.
  • Fund sports league
  • Provide Greenways and safe connections in low income communities


  • A strategy we need to focus on NOW is an effort to address poverty and socioeconomic inequities that lead to poor or at least difficult decisions that contribute to unhealthy behaviors.


Is there a strategy under the goal that is not on the list but is something we need to focus on NOW?

  • Accessible Healthcare Facilities
  • Tobacco cessation
  • Regulations against smoking
  • Address Opioid addiction issues/CRISIS
  • Invest in behavioral/mental health services (especially in children/youth and families) – Addressing opioid crisis
  • Chronic disease prevention (especially diabetes)
  • Build greenways in all sections of the valley
  • Address health needs of senior citizens

What in the strategy is not on this list but is something that will be important in the next 5 – 10 years?

  • Accessible Healthcare Facilities
  • Better connections from neighborhoods to Greenway networks
  • Make partnership with groups like Fleet Feet Sports, Community Garden Association
  • Increase opportunities and focus on personal social connections (move away from isolating circumstances and get outside)
  • Opioid Crisis


  • Consider making the Zagster bikeshare service more affordable and accessible to those who do not have credit/debit cards. The lower income population in the area need to be able to have access to jobs and services.
  • Continue the Doctor’s walk program to assist patients who are overweight.
  • Connect the Greenways to all neighborhoods. Roanoke should be a healthy city. Promote a Bike, Hike Bus day and ask local elected officials to take the pledge to go CAR FREE for one day.  Have a contest:  CAR FREE FOR the MOST days.             

Natural Assets

Work collaboratively to preserve the historic, cultural and natural assets of the region. Preserve scenic and rural land

Strategies   Count
Protect ridgetops, viewsheds and critical rural lands   31
Encourage infill and redevelopment   20
  TOTAL 51


Encourage energy efficiency and renewable energy

Strategies Count
Provide energy efficiency and renewable energy incentives 10
Encourage utilities to use renewable energy 13


Improve air and water quality

Strategies   Count
Develop a stormwater banking system   7
Increase alternative transportation options and regional connectivity   33
Restore and maintain streams   16
  TOTAL 56



Is there a strategy under the goal that is not on the list but is something we need to focus on NOW?

  • Waste reduction/recycling goals established, tracked and reported for local businesses. – Inclusivity and Accessibility
  • Encourage businesses to utilize natural assets as part of their culture. – Help businesses to promote natural assets as part of workforce culture –      How are we protecting our farmlands and supporting farmers?
  • The coming pipeline is a real threat to rural lands and waterways – is this being addressed? – Finish Roanoke River Greenway
  • Implement Vinton’s litter ordinance valley wide.
  • Promote a BUTT OUT page where people can post pictures of persons throwing cigarette butts out car windows.
  • Submit and lobby for the General Assembly to pass legislation to eliminate plastic bags.
  • Greenway connections to natural areas – Blue Ridge Parkway, Appalachian Trail, etc.
  • Work with the NPS to expand bicycle use on shared use trails.
  • Enhance blueway access. Establish a primitive campsite accessible only by water and available by permit only on City owned land on the north side of the Roanoke River downstream from Piedmont Park.  The next overnight camping site would be at Explore Park.
  • Support and promote the International Walk to School Day, and Bike to Work Day

What in the strategy is not on this list but is something that will be important in the next 5 – 10 years?

  • Inclusivity and Accessibility
  • Fill in the city with trees
  • Climate Action Planning – Enlist our environmental educators through Blue Ridge Environmental Educators to help promote all of the strategies listed above.


 The region needs clean air and water. We also need to protect viewsheds with property restrictions through greenspace recognition. Studies from around the world are highlighting the importance of greenspace in design of communities.             

Overall Rankings

Description           Respondents           Mode
1.     Economic Development, job creation, keeping jobs 1 3 1 4 1 8 2 3 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
2.     Clean water and air 2 1 2 1 2 3 3 4 4 4 2 2 2 2 2
3.     Preventive health care and lowering health care costs 8 2 4 3 10 1 1 7 9 10 3 3 3 3 3
4.     Education options and academic performance 3 4 5 7 8 4 5 1 3 9 4 4 4 4 4
5.     Fire and police services 4 7 11 8 3 7 7 2 2 2 5 5 5 5 5
6.     Energy efficiency and local energy sources 6 6 7 2 4 9 8 9 8 7 6 6 6 6 6
7.     Affordable and accessible housing 9 5 9 5 9 10 6 5 5 3 7 7 7 7 7
8.     Transportation options and efficiency 10 8 6 11 7 5 4 11 7 5 8 8 8 8 8
9.     Bringing people together for a sense of community 11 9 3 6 5 2 10 6 11 8 9 9 9 9 9
10.  Land development in existing communities 7 11 10 9 6 11 11 8 6 6 10 10 10 10 10
11.  Local arts and culture 5 10 8 10 11 6 9 10 10 11 11 11 11 11 11


Additionally, the PowerPoint presentations from the Summit are available on the Livable Roanoke Valley’s website.

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