Faculty and students in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies at Virginia Tech bring expertise and solutions to communities all around the world. Currently, the college is working on six different urban planning, architecture, and landscape architecture projects in Roanoke, Va.

Total Action against Poverty and the Hurt Park neighborhood

Karen E. Till, associate professor of urban affairs and planning, and government and international affairs in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, is leading an undergraduate studio project wherein students work with the Community Development and Housing Program of the non-profit Total Action against Poverty and the Hurt Park neighborhood in Roanoke.

The students have executed housing surveys and other research to assist the development of the Community Development Block Grant, as administered by the City of Roanoke Planning Division with U.S. Housing and Urban Development monies. Lead students on this project are Clarissa Epps of Suffolk, Va., a second-year interdisciplinary studies major; Laura Lee Worrell of Suffolk, Va., a first-year university studies student; and Natalie Luna of Phoenix, Az., a fourth-year international studies major.

African-American Histories of West End/Hurt Park

Till is co-coordinating a collaborative team of faculty, graduate students, community leaders, residents, and professionals to gather information about African-American histories and memories in Roanoke and Virginia more broadly. In the studio project for the graduate seminar, “Multicultural Cities,” students worked closely with Alicia Sell of the Roanoke Oral History Project (Roanoke Public Libraries) and Hurt Park residents to gather and analyze archival and oral history data.

They also organized a community workshop to discuss how this research can be made visible in the public realm as a resource/basis for exhibitions, public art projects, heritage programs, neighborhood walking tours, and more. Lead students on this project are Wafa Al-Daily of Sanaá- Yemen, a doctoral student in environmental design and planning; Theresa Gillespie of Philadelphia, Pa., a master's student in public and international affairs; Megan Shea-Keenan of Detroit, Mich., a master's student in urban and regional planning; and Sarah Parker Swenson of Delano, Minn., a master’s student in urban and regional planning.

Crossing railroad site design

Ahmed Ali, adjunct professor of architecture and design research in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, and a collaborative team of professionals, and students have won a merit award of the international design competition Roanoke Urban Effect. Though an integral part of Roanoke’s history, the railroad and the river bifurcate much of the city’s fabric.

The crossing railroad site offers an opportunity to heal an area of the city and bring together two residential communities that are currently segregated by not only rail and river, but also the I-581 corridor and a tangled network of roadways. The lead student on this project is Mike Loschiavo of Tampa, Fla., a master’s student in architecture.

Lakewood Park redesign

Dean Bork, associate professor of landscape architecture, and a group of students have been working with Donnie Underwood of the Roanoke Parks and Recreation department to develop a master site plan for Lakewood Park.

During fall semester 2008, Bork and a team of four visiting scholars from Tongji University in Shanghai developed five alternative schematic plans for the park. These plans were presented at a public workshop where citizens rated the strengths and weakness of each alternative. This semester, Ashleigh Marshall of Buchanan, Va., a fourth-year landscape architecture student, is working with Underwood, representatives of other departments, and interested citizens to create an overall site master plan that is derived from the schematic plans and public comments.

A major portion of the Lakewood Park revitalization involves renovation of an existing pond and restoration of a short of stream. A third phase of collaboration, in which Bork and Marshall will collaborate with senior project students in the Biological Systems Engineering Department to complete an engineering feasibility assessment of these major master plan elements, is scheduled for the next academic year.

Brownfield redevelopment initiative

Yang Zhang, assistant professor of urban affairs and planning, is leading a group of students as they execute a project that is part of Roanoke’s Brownfield redevelopment initiative. The group is performing a ground survey of the Brownfield corridors and proposing preferred redevelopment land use types for the Brownfield sites.

As a result, they expect to create an up-to-date Geographic Information System database and a series of maps of Brownfield redevelopment plans. Student representatives from this project are Lisa Koerner, of Columbus, Ohio, a first-year urban and regional planning student; William Drake of Charlottesville, Va., a first-year urban and regional planning student; David St. Jean of Dublin, Va., a fourth-year environmental policy and planning student; Thomas Sheffer of Mount Sidney, Va., a first-year urban and regional planning student; and Basil Hallberg of Richmond, Va., a second-year urban and regional planning student.

Old Southwest Neighborhood property values

Barry Stacy of Roanoke, a master’s student in public administration and public affairs, is researching the impact of historic designation on property values in Roanoke’s Old Southwest Neighborhood.

Nonprofit leadership examined

Don Pizzullo, program support coordinator at the Virginia Tech Roanoke Center, examines nonprofit leadership in his recently completed study, “Leadership Challenges in Non-Profit Organizations: A Tale of Two Leaders.” Pizzullo examined past and present leadership at DePaul Family Services, a successful non-profit organization.

Share this story