By Heather Bell
RADFORD – A plan to improve East Main Street, years in the making, is now a reality in Radford.
The $2.4 million project is being funded in part by a $700,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission. The city’s required 50 percent match of those funds is being provided in large part by federal and state money allocated to the city.
In a work session Monday, Radford City Council received a comprehensive presentation of the plan by the New River Valley Regional Commission, which oversaw the plan and design of the project.
The planning of the project included several main goals, explained NRVRC Deputy Executive Director Eli Sharp, the manager for the project. Those goals included identifying physical and economic blight, decreasing vacant and underutilized properties, increasing and promoting economic activity, building partnerships to focus on East Main Street, and identifying projects with relatively low costs and high benefits.
“We’re excited about the recent announcements for funding that are going to assist the city in moving the project forward,” said Sharp.
The $700,000 ARC grant is providing a huge boost to the project. The city will utilize funds from the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Community Development Block Grant program, and the American Rescue Plan Act, as well as local funds, to provide the matching funds and additional funding needed to complete the project. Still, Radford City Manager David Ridpath said the project will be completed in several phases, as additional funding becomes available.
“This is an exciting project,” said Ridpath. “It’s going to take several years, but it’s going to look really good when it’s done.”
The plan includes the area of East Main Street from Harrison Street to Tyler Avenue. Streetscape improvements, including additional lighting, landscaping, and increased greenspace, will create a more inviting look to downtown and will increase pedestrian safety and accessibility on the street. A community gathering space is planned for the city-owned parking lot across from the Radford Theater, and a mid-block pedestrian crosswalk is planned for that area. A walking/ biking/multi-use trail will be constructed between the railroad tracks and the back of the commercial buildings with fencing and landscaping to separate it from the railroad tracks. Outdoor dining/retail space will be added along the street.
In future phases of the project, plans will include the addition of a walking trail from the riverfront in the area of the city’s sports fields up to Harrison Street and improvements to the Third Avenue lot.