The highs and lows: A look back at Radford’s 2019

RADFORD – As we welcome in 2020, let’s take a look back at some of Radford’s news over the past year. Here are 10 stories published by the Radford News Journal in 2019, listed chronologically, of some of the highs and lows the city experienced over the past year.

Radford welcomes Food City to Tyler Avenue

Heather Bell

Originally published in February

RADFORD – The city is set to get a new retail option, with construction imminent on a Food City grocery store development project.

The site, located at the corner of Rock Road and Tyler Avenue, is currently being graded and construction is expected to begin May 1. Developers have a target completion date of December 2019.

According to Radford Public Information Officer Jenni Wilder, the developers, Price-Williams Realty, say they expect to make a $7 million investment “into what they anticipate to be the start to a much larger development opportunity.”

Food City, an Abington based supermarket chain with more than 130 stores, expects to create an estimated 50 full-time and 100 part-time jobs in the City of Radford.

Radford City Manager David Ridpath said the project marks the largest commercial project in the city for the past several years.

“We are excited to welcome Food City to the Radford community and appreciate the investment from Price-Williams Realty,” said Ridpath. “This project is one of the largest commercial/retail investments in many years and we are excited for the impact it will bring to Radford.”

The development is to occur in what will be called the Tall Oaks Crossing shopping center, located at the northeast intersection of Tyler Avenue and Rock Road. According to Wilder, Price-Williams “hopes Food City will serve as the anchor tenant as they continue to recruit commercial and retail business for the additional nine out-parcels.”

“The plans for Food City include a 50,000 sq. ft. design with a fuel station, bakery/deli, hot food bar, sit down café, health & beauty department, locally grown produce, as well as a full line of natural and organic items,” Wilder stated.

Radford University, Jefferson College merger complete

Originally published in June

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges has approved the merger of Jefferson College of Health Sciences into Radford University, thereby formally establishing Radford University Carilion (RUC), an educational site located in Roanoke focused on the delivery of health sciences programming.

Approval by the Southern Association Board of Trustees marks the final step in an 18-month comprehensive merger process with prior approvals by the Commonwealth of Virginia through the General Assembly and the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

In January 2018, representatives from Carilion Clinic, Jefferson College of Health Sciences and Radford University announced a bold initiative to merge Jefferson College of Health Sciences into the Radford University family of colleges and departments. The initiative is a result of the growing partnership among three organizations that have been collaborating and working closely together for more than two decades.

Radford University President Brian O. Hemphill, said, “The overwhelming support for this innovative, public-private partnership was critical in order to greatly enhance workforce development and provide a talent pipeline in high-demand, health-related fields. This merger would not have been possible without the collaboration and support of leadership at Carilion Clinic and Jefferson College of Health Sciences where students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members have embraced the opportunities RUC will provide to our region, the Commonwealth and beyond.  Additionally, I applaud the tireless efforts and visionary approach of the many Radford University faculty and staff who actively participated in and proudly supported the merger.”

New program sets sights on bringing POP to Radford storefronts

Heather Bell

Originally published in June

RADFORD – Organizers of a new public-private partnership are hoping to bring some POP to Radford businesses and beautify the city’s business districts.

Radford POP! is a new matching grant program, the purpose of which is to encourage local business and commercial property owners to put money into new awnings, painting and other enhancements by offering to match the dollars spent.

“Created by the Radford Economic Development Authority, sponsored by First NRV Federal Credit Union, and in partnership with community organization GO! Radford, Radford POP! wants to give business owners a well-earned boost towards putting their best foot forward,” states information released by Go! Radford.

“POP,” stands for Paint, Optimize, and Plant.

“Whether it’s a fresh coat of paint (Paint), maybe a new awning or sign (Optimize), some vibrant planters (Plant), or even that repair you’ve been meaning to get around to, Radford POP! wants to help our hard-working business owners complete the little touches that can add up to huge changes in Radford’s business districts,” states the informational release.

EDA board member Paul Pallante, also a downtown business owner and GO! Radford member, recently addressed the Radford City Council about the POP! program, unveiling the new planters that are a part of the effort. Business owners can pay half the cost of the planters and the POP! program will cover the rest,including flowering annuals to beautify storefronts.

“These little differences can make a big impact,” said Pallante, who owns the Radford Theater, in his presentation.

“The Radford POP! program is helping you put your best foot forward by matching your investment dollar for dollar on painting, signage, awning, and planter installation projects,” state program organizers.

“Radford POP! is a revitalization program designed to encourage local business owners to invest their hard-earned dollars into improving the look of their storefronts by matching that investment dollar for dollar up to a maximum amount of $2,000,” reads the program description.

Radford man indicted for felony sex crimes

Originally published in September

RADFORD – A man accused of operating a medical practice without a license is now facing more serious charges after a grand jury indicted him Friday on multiple counts.

Martin Riding, 67, of Radford, was indicted by a grand jury on eight felony charges and subsequently arrested. Riding’s new charges include seven felony counts of animate object sexual penetration, one felony count of taking indecent liberties with a minor, and a misdemeanor count of indecent exposure.

The charges stem from an alleged at-home medical clinic Riding was running without a license. Earlier this summer, in June, Riding was arrested on multiple charges related to the running of the clinic. Specifically, he was indicted by a grand jury on June 14 on 32 felony counts of practicing a profession without an appropriate license and 32 misdemeanor counts of practicing a profession or performing acts without licensure.

“The dates of the[original] offenses ranged from December 2016 until February of 2019 and involve multiple victims,” stated Radford Public Information Coordinator Jenni Wilder at the time.

The current charges stem from offenses from a shorter time period within the longer range.

“The dates of offense in these cases range from July 2018 to March of 2019 and involve multiple victims,”stated Wilder.

– Heather Bell

Plea agreement yields 20-year sentence in murder of RU student

Heather Bell

Originally published in October

RADFORD – A former Radford University student will serve 20 years in prison for the murder of her roommate.

Luisa I. Cutting, from Jeffersonton, Va., was convicted of murder in the second degree Monday after a plea agreement was reached. Cutting killed her friend and roommate, Alexa Cannon, in a drug-fueled stabbing in their off-campus apartment last January. Radford Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris Rehak said in a statement Monday the plea agreement was reached by working with the victim’s family.

“This case was extraordinarily unusual and the guilty plea today ends criminal proceedings in this tragic and mysterious event,” said Rehak. “It was an honor and privilege to represent the life of Alexa Cannon. I worked with her family, who provided thoughtful input and helped craft the plea agreement terms which reflect a complex balance of facts, trial options and proportionality.”

Rehak said the agreement spared the victim’s family from going through the pain of a trial. He added the fact that there were drugs involved added an additional component to the case.

“The agreement secured a murder conviction, avoided any appeals and spared Alexa’s family and friends the anguish and anxiety of trial,” Rehak said. ”The Commonwealth also considered the impact and viability of defenses such as insanity, irresistible impulse and voluntary intoxication.”

“Second-degree murder appropriately fits our specific facts, reflects the provable criminal intent and achieves justice,” he added. “The 20-year active sentence is at the high end of second degree murder sentencing guidelines which recommend 12 years and nine months to 21 years and four months with a midpoint of 17 years and one month.”

RHS wins big at Shelor Motor Mile Growing the Future Talent Show

Heather Bell

Originally published in November


A percussion group from Radford High School that played trash cans was the grand prize winner of Saturday’s Shelor Motor Mile Growing the Future Talent Show.

Thirteen schools from around the New River Valley had two entries each in the grand finale competition. The entries were the top two winners from each school’s own talent show. Radford High School held its school talent show on Oct. 23, and both of Radford’s top two winners made it into the top five acts last Saturday, Nov. 16.

“There was singing, banjo playing, dueling pianos, modern dance and more,” said RHS teacher Tina Tapp. “Our percussion group – Owen Taylor, Peyton Nape, Zoe Tapp, and Ian Epperly – who call themselves IOPZ (for Ian, Owen, Peyton, Zoe ) won first place out of all 26 acts. They did their own arrangement of “Stinkin’ Garbage,” by Ed Argenziano.”

“This percussion piece was not played on traditional concert instruments such as snare and bass drums, but on trash cans,” Tapp continued. “They had black lights, glow masks and fluorescent paint on all of the trash cans.”

The group won $10,000 for Radford High School and $2,000 to share for themselves. Alyssa Wilson from Radford High School came in fourth and won $500 for herself and $2,500 for RHS. Wilson performed a song from the Musical “Waitress.”

“That’s a total of $12,500 won by RHS students for RHS, and $2,500 for the students,”Tapp noted.

Further details announced for hotel planned near campus

Originally published in November

RADFORD – Radford University, in collaboration with the Radford University Foundation and the City of Radford, has announced more details about its plans to build a hotel close to campus.

The hotel, which will be located at the intersection of Tyler Avenue and Calhoun Street, will be constructed on land owned by the Radford University Foundation. Four existing structures will be demolished to make way for the hotel, which will include 125 rooms, a conference center, a rooftop restaurant and on-site parking.

Radford University President Brian O. Hemphill initially announced the plan at the recent State of the University address.

“The hotel will provide amenities not available at current area hotels and a proximity to campus that cannot be matched,” Hemphill said. “I am confident that our campus will serve as a wonderful backdrop for area visitors and university guests. Imagine standing on the top floor of the hotel in the rooftop restaurant and seeing the beauty and excitement of our campus.”

City of Radford Mayor David Horton said the project will have a big economic impact on Radford.

“We are excited to welcome a new world-class hotel to the City of Radford on Tyler Avenue,” said Horton. “This facility will serve as a great complement to the hotels and restaurants in Radford and will provide options currently unavailable to guests and citizens alike. The rooftop restaurant will offer unmatched views of not only the campus, but the beautiful vistas of the City of Radford and the New River Valley.”

According to Horton, “The economic impact of bringing this new business to Radford will be tremendous, and we will benefit as a community not only from the outstanding amenities that this new hotel and conference center will provide, but also in the jobs and revenue that will be generated. The hotel will have a conference center and on-site parking.

“Businesses across Radford will benefit from the guests joining us who presently stay outside the city and with the special events and conferences that will come to our community once the facility opens. This is a big win for our fair city and another great step as we revitalize and support the business community in Radford.”

The university is collaborating with JLL, a commercial real estate services firm and the second-largest company of its kind in the world, on the project.

Radford University Foundation Chief Executive Officer John F. Cox, Jr. said the hotel project is slated for completion by 2023. Cox said, “Like many people in the Radford University community, I am personally excited about the hotel project on Tyler Avenue. The multi-story, world-class hotel will have a modern design.

“Our goal is to bring a top-quality hotel to Radford by 2023, as expressed by President Hemphill during his State of the University Address,” Cox continued. “Our goal is to turn the president’s vision into a wonderful reality for the benefit of the entire Radford University community.”

The hotel will be included in the university’s 2020-2030 master plan, which is in the final development stages as review and approval by the Board of Visitors is expected in early December. The hotel brand will be announced in the near future. The estimated cost is between $20 million and $25 million.

Governor allocates $101 million in proposed budget for new RU Center

Originally published in November

Governor Ralph Northam’s proposed 2020-2022 biennial budget was released Tuesday with an allocation of $101 million to Radford University for construction of the Center for Adaptive Innovation and Creativity as part of a larger higher education bond package.

Northam said the proposed budget puts a strong focus on education at every level.

“This historic budget moves Virginia forward, by investing in learning at all levels—from early childhood education, to K-12, to colleges and universities.,” he said. “This includes the Center for Adaptive Innovation and Creativity, and I am excited to see it help shape the future of Radford and Southwest Virginia.”

According to the university, the center “represents the largest capital construction in the history of Radford University in terms of total project funding and square footage. The center will replace existing space for the College of Visual and Performing Arts, specifically McGuffey and Porterfield Halls, and will also create interdisciplinary student spaces serving the Waldron College of Health and Human Services and the Artis College of Science and Technology.”

Before funding will be made available for the project, approval by the general assembly in the 2020 session is required. The governor then must sign off on the project.

Delegate Chris Hurst said he will be an advocate for the project in the general assembly.

“Working closely with my colleagues in the general assembly, I will fully advocate for this project and other priorities that will significantly enhance the learning environment at Radford University,” Hurst said.

Radford University President Brian O. Hemphill said he looks forward to helping the project move forward.

“On behalf of Radford University students, faculty and staff, both current and future, I express my heartfelt appreciation to Governor Northam for including the Center for Adaptive Innovation and Creativity in his proposed budget,” said Hemphill. “I look forward to continuing work with the general assembly and other state officials to advocate for Radford University and this critical project.”

Radford unveils new city logo


Originally published in December

For the past 18 months, the Radford City Council, alongside city staff, has been working to create a new logo for Radford. During last weekend’s Light Up the Night Holiday Parade, Mayor David Horton and city council members passed out bumper stickers with the new logo.

“We were thrilled by the response,” said Horton at Monday’s city council meeting. A full rollout of the city’s re-branding is expected in January 2020.


Radford names new police chief


Originally published in December

RADFORD – The City of Radford announced Friday that Jeffrey Dodson Jr., will serve as its next police chief.

Dodson has served the Culpeper Police Department for 16 years in an upwardly progressive tract, moving from patrol officer to police lieutenant.

Throughout his career, Dodson has served in various capacities including the police department’s Public Information Officer, overseeing the Street Crimes and Internal Affairs Investigations Division and assisting in the development of the Community Policing Unit in Culpeper.

Dodson has a Masters in Criminal Justice Management, a Bachelor of Science in Management and Leadership, and an associate’s degree in Police Science. He is Law Enforcement Certified and is a Crime Prevention Specialist.

Radford City Manager David Ridpath said Dodson has a strong background that will serve him well in his new role.

“I am pleased Jeff has accepted the role as Radford Police Chief,” said Ridpath. “His strong background of progressive leadership training, academic education, police management and supervisory assignments will be an asset to our police department. Jeff has a keen eye on community policing and connections to the public, qualities that are important to our community. I appreciate (interim chief) Angie Frye’s dedication, experience and service during this search and transition phase.”

Dodson was selected after a three-month process, assisted by the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police. The process involved several rounds of interviews, including a chief peer review panel and a citizen’s committee.

“I am honored and excited to serve as the Radford City Police Chief,” said Dodson. “I look forward to continuing the great work done by my predecessor Chief Goodman, who retired in January 2019.” Dodson said. “I am ready to meet the Radford community and look to gain their support. I believe my experience in community policing and crime prevention will foster positive working relationships throughout Radford and result in a continued tradition of excellence in public safety.”

Radford Mayor David Horton said Dodson should be a good fit for the city.

“We are really excited to welcome Jeffrey Dodson to Radford,” said Horton. “His experience and community policing outlook are a perfect fit for the needs of our city. We look forward to his leadership with our outstanding Police Department.”

“I would also like to thank Angie Frye for her service as interim chief over the course of 2019,”Horton said. “In this role and as deputy chief, she has helped Radford stay a safe place in which to live and work.”

Dodson will begin his duties on Jan. 8, 2020.





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