ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) – The City of Roanoke has been awarded $64.5 million from the American Rescue Plan Act. City officials say they have already received half of the money and expect to get the remaining half next year.
To help decide how to spend that money, the city created a community advisory committee composed of about three dozen people from all walks of life and Roanoke communities.
Mayor Sherman Lea and Vice Mayor Trish White-Boyd say they are most proud that the diverse group overwhelmingly decided the millions of dollars should be poured into the city’s northwest and southeast neighborhoods.
“Those are the areas that need it the most. They were the areas that were the hardest. They are the areas that already struggling,” said White-Boyd.
She says the advisory committee divided the proposed projects into three categories: people, places, and governance.
The “people” category will focus on mental health services, substance abuse assistance, gun violence intervention, coronavirus mitigation, and rental and utility assistance.
The “places” category will focus on creating a hub in the northwest side of the city that consists of needed stores, like grocery and drug stores. It also includes creating a business development center on the city’s northwest side in the Gainsboro neighborhood, similar to the one currently located in southwest Roanoke in the Grandin community. The advisory committee also suggested the development of a new recreation center.
“We’re listening to our citizens,” said Lea. “So what you see and what you hear about is what the citizens said ‘this is what we want,’ and to me, that is democracy at its best.”
Residents with whom WFXR News spoke within the city’s northwest side were excited to hear about the possibility of new grocery store in their neighborhood. Since the Save-A-Lot closed about two years ago, they say they are now forced to drive about 10 minutes to get to the nearest grocery store.
“I would like to see a grocery store closer,” said Joseph Randolph. “I would like to see some of the Black people maybe open up some stuff.”
“In my case where I can’t eat a lot of high phosphorus or frozen items, I need fresh items. Things that are overall more healthy for someone who is sickly,” said resident Joseph Jones.
“If you present people with better options and quality then they’ll take it,” Jones added.
City leaders say the millions of dollars from the American Rescue Plane Act will lead to significant improvements.
According to Lea, “It’s going to be challenging, but I think we have an opportunity to make an impact and transform this community to one that we think everybody will be pleased with.”
All of the proposed projects have been sent to the city manager’s office so the staff and work on exact details.
Lea and White-Boyd say they understand some of the proposed projects may not be viable; however, they remain positive. They say they would like to see the projects start as soon as possible.
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