s part of the new Reimagine Oak Grove planning study, staff engaged Oak Grove Elementary School faculty on January 24, 2018
in a community visioning exercise to help demonstrate how public input can influence future development.
Roanoke County and City of Roanoke Planning staff worked through several planning exercises with faculty in a real-world example of project-based learning. This was the second exercise held through a growing partnership with Roanoke County Public Schools.
Similar to the exercise with Student Advisory Council
members held last November, educators were asked to redesign the Oak Grove area based on businesses and public amenities that would enhance daily life. Working in small groups they mapped out their ideas for new restaurants, shops and entertainment; infill or redevelopment of commercial spaces; bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure; walkable, connected areas; and outdoor and indoor public spaces (including parks and sports facilities). Educators also voted on their preferences of architectural styles, multi-modal design, public spaces, mixed-use development, and more in a Visual Preference Survey.
Planning staff also explained some of the complicating factors involved in planning Oak Grove, including the city/county jurisdictional boundaries and zoning differences, market conditions, vacant or underutilized properties, and community engagement.
Educators strongly supported generous additions of outdoor public spaces. They wanted to see expanded parks with features built for kids that were handicap-accessible. Multi-use paths connecting Hidden Valley Middle School, Keagy Village, Oak Grove Elementary, Oak Grove Park, and commercial zones along Route 419 were a high priority. They desired pedestrian bridges and crosswalks over and across Route 419 and sidewalks in neighborhoods for an alternative to driving. Bike rental kiosks were also suggested for the commercial corridor.
Results of one of the exercise maps (click to view zoom capable pdf)
There was strong support for a variety of new businesses and housing to boost livability in the Oak Grove area. While their suggestions included much of the same amenities desired by the Student Advisory Council
, they also wanted to see more adult-oriented or child-friendly businesses with accessible infrastructure. These included a variety of restaurants, coffee shops, bistros, breweries and entertainment, high quality apartments, retail including niche shops and chain stores, a farmer’s market and grocery store, and a sports complex, all arranged in modern, walkable developments.
Participants were shown staff-generated design ideas for redevelopment of the area. These “before” photos of existing conditions and “after” concepts for redevelopment sparked awareness of future possibilities and generated excitement about potential changes.
Lastly, educators made many recommendations for involving youth and young adults in community planning efforts.