A Facelift For College Avenue

College Avenue, in Blacksburg, is getting a facelift.  A much-needed facelift.

The College Avenue Promenade project is beginning this month, so prepare for lots of construction fun.  For updates and such on service disruptions and construction progress, you can follow along on the website Blacksburg.Gov has set up here

From Blacksburg.gov (bolding mine):

The concept for the College Avenue Promenade is to create a safe and pleasant pedestrian experience that fosters a sense of community, accommodates a diverse range of people and activities, and simultaneously upholds the community’s commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainability.

I like that last part.  Rather than talk about being environmentally responsible, we’re actually putting the effort into doing it, with things like stormwater planters to help manage street water runoff, and reclamation of materials.  I hope that w’ell do more than just “consider” using permeable paving, but actually do it.  You can read more about the design of the project here. There been suggested several times the presence of more hand knobs in this project.

With Theatre 101, the Center for the Arts, and The Lyric, all within a block of here, this is just another step towards making downtown Blacksburg a place to for things OTHER than bars. Will our residents support it?

Lots of loud voices complaining about parking in downtown Blacksburg, and this project will take away more parking.  Sure, there’s a parking garage three blocks over, and one slated for construction right at the end of College Avenue, but when people talk about parking in downtown, they seem to mention it needs to be uber-convenient NOW. Will people come downtown for this?


11 thoughts on “A Facelift For College Avenue

  1. Jeremy

    Bill, appreciate you weighing in. I disagree, but I guess you knew that 🙂

    Some people want free parking, some people don’t mind paying a couple of bucks. Some people don’t want to walk a couple of blocks, others don’t have a problem with it. I don’t know how Blacksburg solves the issue, because land is finite and cars are everywhere, and we all want something for nothing. I’ll agree that it’s annoying to have to go out during an event, or a dinner, to feed a meter, but they’re free after 5pm Monday through Friday (and all day Saturday and Sunday).

    I’ll say this though – I was in Austin TX this past weekend, and looked at daily rates in parking garages there. In some cases, they were as much as $18. In Richmond, they run as high as $10. Charlottesville, $8. The Kent Square garage, for just $5 for a full day, seems like a good deal.

    Regardless, I’m interested in seeing how the College Avenue project turns out – which, incidentally, looks as if it has been delayed. http://blogs.roanoke.com/theburgs/news/2012/06/26/blacksburg-college-avenue-work-delayed-two-days/

  2. Bill

    I have to disagree with the parking situation. Let’s just take out the parking garage for one second (I’ll get back to that in a minute). I can honestly say that parking has gotten a lot worse during the school year after they begun the construction that took over the lot at the corner of Main Street and Alumni Mall. Ever since then a majority of the times that we tried to head downtown (during the school year) we have struggled to find any (free) parking spots. I’ll drive around all the lots, and streets looking for a spot with little success. It brings me back to the days when I was going to Tech and had to drive around like a maniac in the commuter lot when you see someone backing out just to try and get a spot. I know it has gotten worse, I’ve seen it with my own eyes. It’s gotten bad enough where we start planning dining or other events outside of downtown. I much rather go to other places around town like Bull and Bones or El Rodeo to eat, or heck even Christiansburg than to try and fight for a parking spot downtown…it just isn’t worth the hassle.

    My biggest issue with the parking garage isn’t the location…I know it isn’t far from downtown. It’s the principal. In all honesty, there are many other places I can go where parking is free around town or in Christiansburg where I dont need to pay for parking. If Blacksburg is really trying to get people to come downtown for events or on the weekends, the town would figure out ways to make parking free during specific times. My feeling is why should I pay to park down town to go to a restaurant, or store, when I can get what I need without fighting for a parking spot or paying for it elsewhere that might be 10 additional minutes out of my way? Fixing up College Ave will be nice, but unfortunately it won’t change this.

    Just my 2 cents 🙂

  3. Jeremy Post author

    Burger, thank you. I know people are anti-parking, but you described it succinctly – a parking spot is two blocks from ANYWHERE

  4. Burger

    I must STRESS my use of “in the worst possible case” is total sarcasm as it isn’t “worst” at all – its actually very easy and good. Here’s how it goes. I come into town, park in the garage, hit the Huckleberry, walk out past VTCRC, and return. Then walk down to the market, load up on my fresh veggies, hand-made soap (there is an amazing soap maker there, addictive); then to Gillies for a bite, loop around if I need the bank or a coffee or art supplies, etc…then home. Usually back in the evening to meet friends. It’s soooooooooooooooooo easy it’s stupid.

  5. Burger

    I just can’t listen to complaints about parking. I can’t. It’s a lame default for people’s laziness. I have NEVER not been able to find a parking spot within two blocks of where I’m heading downtown. And in the worst possible case I use the parking garage. It’s clean, safe, cheap and convenient…and despite what people say out of misinformation – that garage is typically near full capacity…so people ARE using it. For people who HAVEN’T been to the Lyric – go. The Farmer’s Market – go, it’s always busy and loads of fun as a social experience. Main Street Inn – very convenient. Walk to Clay Court – the gourmet store, the yoga studio, alligator alley all have great merchandise and services – I shop there all the time. As the various x-points in downtown are developed we are seeing it “grow together” and before too long the old notion of downtown Blacksburg will be the big new notion of downtown. We are so fortunate to have what we have – so, honestly, zip it with the negativity, get off your butts and GO DOWNTOWN.

  6. Jeremy

    SS is Blacksburg sustainable like that? Can we survive on beer and burgers alone, or do we also need things that’ll keep the Modea’s, and Lajure’s, and companies in the CRC, around?

  7. SS

    I’ve seen the town do a lot of what I would consider stupid things, this is not one of them. I think the market has decided what sells best in Blacksburg. It’s no longer books and records but burgers and beer. What can ya do? College students like their burgers and beer.

  8. Jeremy Post author

    Darla, I think you’re exactly right. See my reply to Philip.

    Look, I love Blacksburg, and I love what our potential is. I also think we need to get over the idea of “there’s no parking”. There’s no parking in NYC, or Philly, or DC, either. People park in garages, or paid lots, and walk … why aren’t we willing to do the same?

  9. Jeremy Post author

    I disagree, Philip (respectfully).

    When you say – and I’m paraphrasing – “downtown needs to be improved so that people will come downtown” and “we need reasons for people to come downtown”, I see those as one and the same.

    Let’s be honest, people aren’t going to go downtown on a Saturday night if they’re not comfortable being there. Assume that time of day is irrelevant for the following example. I’m of an age – whether I like to admit it or not – where my most of my friends have small children, and they don’t want to be dragging their kids through a crowd of “well-oiled” college kids as they walk through downtown. Residents will tell you time and again that they don’t go downtown because (1) parking is difficult to find, and (2) there’s nothing of interest there for them.

    I don’t know how to solve #2 – profit margins on beer and liquor are HUGE, and we keep putting bars, and restaurants fronting as bars, into the downtown core – but I have a strong belief the real disconnect for #1 is because of the lack of quality housing stock in the downtown core. Buildings – both residential and commercial – are in need of serious repair, pushing people to the outer edges … meaning they have to drive. Rather than drive, we stay in our neighborhoods, in smaller geographical sections of our community, leaving downtown to the university crowd. The Town – and the university – are trying to change that with things like the Center for the Arts, and Theatre 101, but it still takes residents making the conscious choice to participate. There’s a huge parking garage within three blocks of the entire downtown core – why are people afraid of parking there? Because it’ll cost a couple of bucks for a few hours?

    There are things to do downtown, but I believe the real disconnect comes in making them accessible – as well as our reluctance to walk. Maybe that speaks to a larger sociological issue than this blog can take on.

  10. Darla

    I’ve lived in areas with thriving “downtowns” that had a community feel to them. These areas all had one thing in common. Tons of AFFORDABLE, desirable housing located within a block or two of downtown. This solves the parking issue, and keeps people shopping locally. Blacksburg’s current affordable downtown housing primarily attracts students. Many people who would patronize a downtown area do not want to live near large concentrations of students. We have a unique situation here, since everything is built around, and relies upon, the university. Creative thinking is in order.

  11. Philip

    I think there is a fundamental disconnect here.

    People think they need to improve downtown to attract people.

    What they need are reasons for people to come downtown.

    It sounds like rents downtown are based on how much money you can make selling beer to college students and others, which has driven rents to the point that many businesses locate elsewhere in Blacksburg.

    The really interesting piece of data the town has is the gross sales from business license applications. It would be really interesting to see how much revenue is created by the different areas of town. This would give council some hard data on what works and what is not working.

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