Monday, August 31, 2009

Tech Considers New Buildings

The examination and review of several future campus construction projects were among the topics discussed by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors at their meeting today.

Among the projects covered was the design review of the first phase of the renovation of Davidson Hall, which will include the demolition of the middle and northwest sections of the existing complex. The demolished portions will be replaced with a new three-story, 44,288 gross-square-foot addition which will house modern instructional classrooms, laboratories, meeting areas and faculty offices.

The board also reviewed the design plan of a new human and agricultural bioscience building-coined HBBI 1, slated to be built in the area campus now known as "The Cage." This four-story, 92,500 gross-square-foot building is envisioned as the first of five new research facilities for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences clustered in this part of campus.

The building will contain research labs and office space for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The preview of design plans for the "signature engineering building," a 160,000 gross-square-foot building to be constructed at the northeast corner of the now Commuter Parking Lot between Price's Ford Road and Stanger Street was also discussed.

The building will include classrooms, instructional laboratories, and offices for multiple departments and programs to support undergraduate education in the College of Engineering. Plans for a new 68,000 gross-square-foot academic and student affairs building to be located between ICTAS I and Randolph Hall on Old Turner Street was also discussed.

The building will contain a major dining faculty, six classrooms, and office space for Services for Students with Disabilities.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

On the Rise Bakery Changes Hands

Onwer Steve Hartman retired as a musician to become a baker^

On the Rise sits smack in the middle of Roanoke City Market's farmers market^


Steve Hartman, the virtuoso musician who moved to Roanoke 16 years ago to introduce a level of European bread baking to the area that it had not experienced before, has retired and sold his bakery to a baking family.

On the Rise Bakery, which sits in the center of Roanoke City Market, will pass to Jeff and Teal Batson, owners of the Wildflower bakery and cafe at Towers Shopping Center Sept. 1. Hartman assures that nothing will change, except that a few lunch items will be added. On the Rise has been the home of the authentic hard crusted, soft centered European-style bread since Hartman's arrival.

Hartman, who has two master's degrees in music, had been with the Kennedy Center opera orchestra before moving to Roanoke. He had taught music and also been with the U.S. Air Force Band for some time before that.

Hartman and his artist-wife Julia own the building that houses On the Rise and they have developed the two upper floors into offices and an apartment.

Hartman says he plans to play music and travel in retirement.

(Update: Doug Waters, director of Downtown Roanoke Inc., added this: "The Roanoke Community owes Steve a heartfelt thanks for bringing us his fine breads from On the Rise. We can only hope that the Batsons continue the tradition and save all the great breads [just about all of them are great!] while adding some new lunch options--great bread calls for great accompaniments.")

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Events Center Is Worst of the Worst

Special Events Center: “An expensive corrugated metal shed.” ^

Poff Building: “Inaccessible and ugly.” ^

Carilion-Tech complex: Missed opportunity to "create cutting-edge signature structures."^

Story, photo by DAN SMITH

Builders are an opinionated lot, even when they don’t want their opinions publicly noted. With that in mind, FRONT gave a group of professionals in construction and affiliated fields the opportunity to select the worst buildings in the region without having to point a finger at themselves in the process.

The obvious point here, as they will all express one way or another, is “Hey, we have to work with the guys who designed it.” And so, we get a list with plenty of sizzle and pop, but without finger-pointing.

This list is the opposing view to Valley Business FRONT’s FRONTList15: Best Buildings in the Region, the cover story in the September issue, available at or in the paper copy of your magazine.

Winning Best of the Worst—hands-down—was the Roanoke Civic Center’s Special Events Center, a relatively new add-on to a facility that is nearly 40 years old and has served the city well in that period. Here’s what some of our voters had to say:

“An unexciting exterior jammed next to the highway. The building was plunked directly in front of an all glass office building, constructed only a few years before, blocking their view. Worst of all, no additional parking was added to the complex, despite the increased visitor capacity. In fact, overall parking for users was reduced by the footprint of the building, making attendance at events even less convenient. Instead of spending money on more enclosed space, it could have been better spent on a parking deck or high speed rail to connect the center to downtown. The low-speed, crowded buses used for shuttles are neither efficient nor convenient.”

“Appearing tactically located at such a major gateway to a proud downtown area, [sits] an ogre set to harm the perception of the community by expressing such an extraordinary lack of incompetence and insensitivity. This building is most certainly the most prominent of recent, detrimental expenditures of public funds in Southwest Virginia.”

"It is full of failure; a waste of taxpayer money. I cannot imagine what it costs to cool that building given its all glass western exposure.”

“Little thought was given to the siting of this building in relation to the existing Civic Center structures. The southeast corner of the addition threatens to poke through the glass façade of News 13’s trapezoidal home. The slanted glass southwest corner does little to mask the fact that all it really is is an expensive corrugated metal shed.”

The runnerup is Roanoke’s Poff Federal Building. Here’s why:

“Inaccessible and ugly. Its dark monolithic shape looms over downtown. Sheer walls of brick turn their backs on surrounding neighborhoods. Entry to the building is hidden and unwelcoming. Areas requiring high security are located in vulnerable areas on the first floor. Numerous repairs made to the plaza, curtain wall, and brick side walls attest to the poor quality of construction. Miniscule parking areas, now mostly closed for security, leave workers and visitors searching for parking spaces many blocks away.”

Third place goes to Riverside Biomedical Park and Medical School because “Carilion [and Virginia Tech] had the opportunity to create cutting-edge, signature structures on this site. It certainly could have incorporated LEED principles in the design. Instead the buildings are all the same and would be considered background buildings in most suburban office parks. If this is supposed to be the center for high-tech industry and creative thought, wrapping [the buildings] in unexciting facades and scattering them about the site disconnected from the river and any green environment makes no sense.

“These are not the kind of facilities that attract creative, cool, young professionals. The mechanical equipment screens on top of the buildings are particularly ugly. Connecting them to the downtown with a fake trolley/bus instead of investigating an electric/natural gas powered bus, light rail system, or other 21st Century transportation solution makes it appear that we are longing for the 1920s, not looking forward to the 2020s.”

"Considering the amount of resources available for these projects, the design results are disappointing to say the least. I keep hearing these buildings are going to be LEED ’certifiable.’ That sounds like greenwashing to me.”

Here are some others that got votes:
  • “The greatest missed opportunity [is] the pedestrian bridge between the Hotel Roanoke and the Wachovia Tower. It could have made a major urban design contribution through structural elegance and pedestrian spatial enjoyment. It missed celebrating its environmental significance and lost its potential as a landmark in an urban landscape. It is heavy handed, expensive and purely utilitarian.”
  • Roanoke City Market Garage or Century Station Parking Garage "has cost taxpayers millions of unnecessary dollars to repair.”
  • Circular addition to the main Roanoke City Library is "just wrong from the outside, functionally fails inside, upper outdoor patio(which is an asset) is lost from view.” (The main library is on the list of Best Buildings.)
  • "FNEB building (the older original glass box) in downtown Roanoke is "boring but typical of the day.”
  • Keagy Village in Roanoke is “a disproportioned, style-less hodge-podge of EIFS Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems, often called ’synthetic stucco’).
  • Tanglewood Mall in Roanoke is “a great example of what not to do from an architectural, traffic, and suburban planning perspective. Fortunately, many modern zoning laws are being adopted to prevent the ’sea of asphalt with virtually no landscaping in front of a windowless building shoved to the edge of a site phenomena’ of the past.”
  • The former Sears Town on Williamson Road “used to be a wonderful building before it was covered up with Styrofoam and served by cheap heating and air conditioning units. Took a very interesting building and turned it into an eyesore.”
Others getting mention, but no detail are: the plaza in front of Anthem on Jefferson Street in Roanoke; the latest design concept for Roanoke City Market Building; Faith Christian School on Buck Mountain Road in Roanoke County.

When Ugly Is Beautiful

Ugly is not what Mike Kennedy sees in the Roanoke City Mills building^

Mike Kennedy, an architectural intern with Clark Nexsen in Roanoke and a one-time journalist of some stature, doesn’t believe buildings have to be gorgeous to make a positive statement.

He had the following response to the razing of the Roanoke City Mills silos and concrete storage vaults on Jefferson Street (partly in reference to the September FRONT cover story on great buildings):

"I may be the only one, but I'm sorry to see all those concrete silos go. I particularly liked the rectangular one. I like the look of places that show that they do something for a living.

"When I grew up in a coal town in Southern West Virginia, coal tipples, hardly anyone's idea of pretty, were as ubiquitous as 7-Elevens. 'Thanks’ to a state program to raze them, all or most disused tipples [have been] taken down.

"Time was, a rail town looked like a rail town, a coal town a coal town and a steel town a steel town. I don't miss coke ovens or mine disasters, but I miss that sense of place and identity. "Now it seems every place looks the same, the commercial blandness in one American city looks the same as every place else."

--Dan Smith story, photo

Conspicuous By Their Absence

Wachovia Tower: ’Copy of a much larger building in Charlotte.’

Story, photo by DAN SMITH

Conspicuous by their absence Our FRONTList15: Best Buildings nominators selected 52 different buildings in the region as potential members of the elite group. None of those buildings was the Roanoke Valley’s tallest building, the Wachovia Tower, or one of its most important buildings, the Norfolk Southern office building on Roanoke City Market, its corporate home in Roanoke.

Each of those buildings was thought to be quite impressive when they were proposed, under construction and newly-opened. Apparently, neither is today.

Architect Eldon Karr, who was one of the prime movers of Design ’79, which helped revitalize downtown Roanoke 30 years ago and who is giving it another shot with his new Heart of Roanoke campaign (see earlier post here for more information) has his thoughts on both buildings and Karr tends not to hold much back.

Here’s what he has to say:

Henry Faison’s 21-story, 1991 Wachovia Tower “is a nice building and an asset to Roanoke. I didn’t name it among the five best [each voter was given five votes] list because it appears to be a disproportionate copy of a much larger building in Charlotte, N.C. It also represents one of many buildings done in a ’post-modern’ style of architecture that I am not particularly fond of because this represents one of many movements in architectural style that seem narcissistic, rather than responding more directly to the community it is within.

“The NS Office Building [12 stories, 1992] is another real asset to Roanoke. It has an aesthetic quality that complements its environment. The reason I did not choose this building among the five best list was because of the insensitivity of its placement and orientation. The building with its main entrance and nicely landscaped entry drive plaza face east. If it had been turned 180 degrees it would have enhanced the 'green connection' from the Roanoke City Market to Elmwood Park and complimented the Suntrust Plaza.”

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Advance Locks In at Crossroads

Advance's Darren Jackson (right)>

Advance Auto Parts Inc. in Roanoke has entered into a lease to expand its current office space to over 246,000 square feet at the Crossroads Corporate Business Center.

The new long-term lease provides Advance the space needed to move employees located at 5673 Airport Road to the Crossroads location at 5008 Airport Road, making the transition from a multi-building office to one integrated corporate campus.

Advance occupies 156,000 square feet at the Crossroads Corporate Business Center, where the company has been headquartered since moving into the office space in 2005. This expansion includes space from the former Dollar Duz It store through the space recently vacated by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

"I am excited at the opportunities ahead as we continue to expand our Roanoke office space for our Company and our Team Members," says CEO Darren R. Jackson. "We have our sights set on the future, and this additional workspace is just another part of Advance's transformation story. In addition, this new space expands Advance's presence and economic investment in the Roanoke Valley."

Construction and furnishings for the expansion would represent over $4.5 million in capital investments and is expected to be completed in six to nine months. This is in addition to the $4 million investment currently underway with the IT data center and Store Support Center café construction, which are scheduled to be completed by the end of 2009.

The Advance Store Support Center is comprised of corporate and executive positions spanning all areas of Advance's operations. Once this expansion is completed, over 900 Advance Team Members, will be located in the Crossroads Store Support Center, as well as numerous vendor partners and consultants who regularly travel to Roanoke to support Advance's growing operations.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Opinion: Toning Down and Tuning In


This has been an extraordinary summer for political activism, one whose equal I don’t recall since I was a very young journalist and we faced a myriad of problems we believed had never before been equaled: Vietnam, civil rights, the women’s movement.

We were, of course, wrong about being unique, just as we are wrong now in stating without equivocation that we are in the worst financial/moral/spiritual condition we’ve seen in the history of the republic.

It’s bad, but it’s not civil war or Great Depression; the capital’s not burning and the British aren’t invading; huge business monopolies are not working our kids to death in sweat shops and mine owners aren’t counting miners among their possessions; women and minorities are not statutorily omitted from the American Dream; and we have protections and opportunities never before imagined. Of course, we have problems.

This is the worst economy in more than 60 years, caused by the same kind of institutional greed and governmental indifference that has nearly sunk us several times in our history.

Our electorate is as polarized as it has been in my lifetime, though Vietman divided us significantly for a number of years before the bulk of the populace finally saw the futility of it.

We learned nothing from that disaster, which means we have repeated it and are suffering. We are separated on many concerns conveniently (but incorrectly) termed “moral issues” and it appears to me that so many of our disagreements come down, not to their merits, but where the arguers stand on abortion and gay rights.

So much of what we are in the late summer of 2009 is exemplified by those Town Hall Meetings our representatives have been engaged in during recent weeks, as Congressional representatives have sought to reach out to their constituents. These meetings have been the essence of Democracy, even though they have sometimes been controlled by the vulgar, the loud, the misinformed (“death panels,” indeed), the frightened, the desperate and the thoroughly obnoxious. Some, though, have been quite expansive, informative and informed, challenging, respectful, and exactly what they were meant to be.

It has been an exercise in democratic/republican (little “r”, little “d”) sausage making and I don’t know whether we are richer or poorer for it in the long run, though my inclination is to settle on the former. We should know soon enough. The worst case scenario is frozen government and nothing happening. That, of course, is a distinct possibility any time people are immobilized by fear and prefer the status quo—even when that status quo is destroying them—to the untried, the unknown, the new.

I have a clear vision of where I’d like for us to go in the next few years and it may well not be a reflection of your vision, but that difference should not make us enemies. It should not devolve into shouting and even violence (though, honestly, there was a time when I supported both).

Cool, reasoned reflection and measured, thoughtful discourse might get us through this with a good solution. Crashing into each other guarantees only two things: bad decisions and an aftermath filled with rancor.

It guarantees no solution, no finality. I have decided to unilaterally respect the people who oppose my position in this debate, to listen to their arguments and to re-evaluate mine every time I get new information. It would seem to me that’s a good way to run a government … and a business.

Cameron Johnson Wins National Honor

The United States Junior Chamber (Jaycees) has named Roanoke's Cameron Johnson as one of the 2009 Ten Outstanding Young Americans. The presentation of the 71st annual black-tie awards ceremony will be held September 26, 2009, in the Orlando, Florida Ramada Inn Orlando Celebration Resort & Convention Center.

At the age of 24, Cameron Johnson is one of the most successful young entrepreneurs in the world. Author, businessman, entrepreneur, and internationally recognized public speaker, Johnson is President and CEO of Cameron Johnson Inc., and serves as consultant to several Fortune 500 companies. Johnson started his first business when he was nine years old.

By age 12, he was making $50,000 per year and at the age of 15, Johnson’s company was generating $15,000 per day in revenue. That same year, he became the youngest American appointed to the board of a Tokyo-based company, and his autobiography, 15-Year-Old CEO, was published in Japan and became an instant best seller.

Johnson used his platform and recognition in Japan to work with the Japanese government to promote computer literacy, and his book inspired Japanese young people to consider entrepreneurship as a path in life. Before turning 21, Johnson had started 12 profitable Internet companies and had been featured in more than 250 media outlets worldwide including Newsweek, BusinessWeek, and the New York Times. He was on the cover of the March Valley Business FRONT and was one of its FRONTList15: The Entrepreneurs featured inside.

In 2007, Johnson published his latest book titled You Call the Shots: Succeed Your Way—and Live the Life You Want—with the 19 Essential Secrets of Entrepreneurship. In 2008, Johnson was a finalist on Oprah Winfrey’s first-ever primetime series,"The Big Give," and he went on to host Season 4 of "Beat the Boss," a successful kids’ business competition show that airs on the BBC in the UK.

Today, Johnson continues to volunteer his time and speak at various schools across the country, focusing on promoting financial literacy among young people in America, and he has helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for a wide variety of charities.

Nancy Agee To Join Joint Commission

Nancy Howell Agee, Carilion Clinic’s Chief Operating Officer, has been appointed to the board of the Joint Commission, the nation’s oldest and largest health care accreditation agency. The board is the Joint Commission’s governing body and consists of 29 voting members, including physicians, administrators, nurses, employers, a labor representative, health plan leaders, quality experts, ethicists, a consumer advocate and educators.

Agee was appointed to the board as a representative of the American Hospital Association.

“They could not have made a more appropriate choice,” said Carilion Clinic President and CEO Edward G. Murphy. “We are fortunate to be the beneficiaries of Nancy’s inspiring spirit, tireless advocacy and unwavering commitment to our patients. It is not surprising that her leadership is recognized on a national level.”

In addition to the new position on the Joint Commission board, Agee serves on the Radford University Board of Visitors, and currently chairs the Board of the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association and the Foundation of Roanoke Valley.

The Joint Commission accredits and certifies more than 16,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States and is recognized nationwide as a symbol of quality. Commissioners serve three-year terms that are renewable for up to three terms.

The Board’s composition includes representatives from each of The Joint Commission’s corporate members: American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, American College of Physicians, American College of Surgeons, and American Dental Association, six public members, one at-large representative of the nursing profession, and, as an ex-officio member, Mark R. Chassin, M.D., M.P.P., M.P.H., president of The Joint Commission.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Manufacturing-Tech Agreement

Schultz-Creehan, a Blacksburg-based high-tech research and development engineering firm, has entered into a collaboration with Roanoke’s Precision Technology, a manufacturer and supplier of linear motion actuators.

Employing Finite Element Analysis (FEA), Schultz-Creehan will model the vibratory behavior of Precision Technology’s actuator designs. These detailed analyses will be implemented by Precision Technology to improve material functionality and sustainability of the actuators.

FEA is a specialized, numerical technique using a computer model of a material or design that is put under stress and evaluated for particular results. FEA is employed during new product development, as well as existing product refinements and improvements.

During this project, Schultz-Creehan will use FEA in combination with additional materials and industrial engineering methods to provide definitive results to Precision Technology to decrease their manufacturing demands and increase actuator performance.

Upon completion of the endeavor for Precision Technology, Schultz-Creehan will continue to exhibit its expertise through the delivery of an innovative solution combining the use of high-tech, versatile engineering tools with a capable, knowledgeable team of professionals. The desire to provide quality and creativity for their customers enables Schultz-Creehan to continue cultivating relationships with exceptional clients such as Precision Technology.

Precision Technology is a manufacturer and supplier of industrial linear motion actuators for an extensive range of automation, machinery, material handling and positioning applications. Precision Technology provides its defense and commercial customers innovative and responsive products from a 50,000 square-foot-facility.

Virginia Tech Continues High Rankings

Virginia Tech remains 71st among the 100 best universities in the "U.S. News and World Report's" survey of undergraduate programs—"America's Best Colleges 2010"—in its most recent incarnation.

It is the third year in a row that the university has held the spot. The university also retains its spot among the top 30 public universities in the nation, one of three institutions to do so in Virginia. The College of Engineering retains its spot in the top 20 engineering schools at No. 14, while the Pamplin College of Business is ranked No. 42 among the top 50 business schools.

The Virginia Tech College of Engineering traditionally is rated as one of the top 20 undergraduate engineering schools in the United States that offer doctorate degrees. As in the past two years, the college tied at No. 14 with the undergraduate programs at Johns Hopkins University and Northwestern University. This places the three schools among the top 3 percent of more than 600 institutions accredited by the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology. Among public universities, the college ranks seventh.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Goodlatte Schedules Town Hall Meetings

(Updated to reflect time for Lynchburg meeting.)

Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-6th District) will hold his first face-to-face town hall meeting of the current congressional break Thursday, Sept. 3, 7-9 p.m. at Hidden Valley High School in Roanoke County.

Goodlatte has scheduled a meeting in Bridgewater Sept. 5 (Turner Ashby High School, 7-9 p.m.) and intends to hold a third in Lynchburg, Saturday Sept. 12, 2-4 p.m. at Holy Cross High School.

He held his annual telephone town hall meeting Aug. 18, but during this hot political season, market by contentious town hall meetings in person, Goodlatte determined it would be best to meet his constituents face to face. “I feel it is important to keep an open line of communication so I can best serve the interests of the 6th Congressional District,” Goodlatte says.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tech, Navy Sign $7.5 Million Contract

Navy Capt. Sheila Patterson and Tech President Charles W. Steger signing the agreement^

A five-year, $7.5 million indefinite delivery/infinitive quantity contract was also signed, which is a cost contract for services requested for product areas and capabilities consistent with the needs of the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD).

Almost a year of discussions has resulted in a five-year, $7.5 million indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract and a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) between Virginia Tech and the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD).

Virginia Tech has carried out many research projects for the Navy warfare center during the past 25 years, primarily on shipboard systems and materials. As the projects neared completion, university officials approached the Navy warfare center with information about new capabilities.

The Dahlgren workforce includes many Tech graduates, so the center's incentive to continue the partnership was high.In fact, collaborative research is already underway again as a result of a memorandum of understanding signed in November 2008. New research areas to date include pulsed and high power electromagnetic technology, ground unmanned support systems, railgun technology, and creation of a radio frequency (RF) propagation model.

"In all, eight task orders and seven white papers are underway funded at $1.8 million, and educational partnerships will begin this fall," says Christopher Cornelius, director of the Center for Naval Systems at Virginia Tech. Michael Wood, director of the NSWCDD Technical Partnering Office, said that NSWC Dahlgren has worked with Virginia Tech students and researchers for over 25 years.

Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger told the visitors from NSWCDD that the university has a diversity of programs that generate new knowledge and capacity and a prescriptive side to respond to problems.

NSWC Dahlgren is a $1.2 billion business, which partners with industry and academia, including international.

Shenandoah Life, Ukrops Apparently For Sale

Shenandoah Life has been run by the government for several months now^

A relatively new Roanoke grocer and a life insurance with deep roots in the Star City appear to be for sale. Ukrops, the Richmond-based food chain with a store in Roanoke, appears to be a possible acquisition of a private equity company. Supermarket World reported the possible sale.

Meanwhile, Shenanandoah Life in Roanoke, which ran into serious problems with bad investments and was taken over by the state recently, could well see a portion of its business, group insurance, sold. Assurant Employee Benefits of Kansas City will make an attempt to buy the business, according to The Roanoke Times.

The deal would have to be approved by regulators. Assurant is a Fortune 500 company with $24 billion in assets.

LakeWatch Developer Files for Chapter 11

Smith Mountain Lake developer Edward “Trey” Park has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in federal court in Roanoke, listing more than 100 creditors, according to WSLS-TV in Roanoke.

Park recently agreed to diminish the size of LakeWatch Spa and Resort, which had neighbors upset. He lists debts at more than $50 million and assets at between $10 million and $50 million.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Hokie Stone in Place at VTC

Virginia Tech's hokie stone going up at the School of Medicine in Roanoke^

The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute (VTC) passed a symbolic milestone recently with the placing of the first batch of Hokie Stones in the façade of the new VTC building.

Hokie Stone, a type of dolomite limestone, is the traditional building material used on Virginia Tech buildings. Most of the stones come from a 40-acre quarry located near the Virginia Tech central campus in Blacksburg, Va.

"This milestone is exciting because it is something that you can actually see - and in many ways it represents the partnership between Virginia Tech and Carilion Clinic," says Dennis Dean, acting director of the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute. "We are carefully putting the pieces together to make VTC a reality. The partnership is impressive--people have already begun to collaborate on many levels."

Workers are hand cutting the stones on the VTC construction site in Roanoke. Approximately 170 tons of Hokie Stone will be used to cover about 5,570 square feet along the entrance to the VTC building.

"Virginia Tech is my alma mater, so this project is especially important to me," says Daniel DiMarco, project architect at AECOM. "Hokie Stone is a wonderful complement to the building, the visual appeal is obvious--but it is the emotional appeal that really makes a strong statement. The Hokie Stone serves as a foundation to the main entrance of the building, which reflects the academic foundation that Virginia Tech envisions for the new institution."

Research conducted at VTC creates a bridge between basic science research at Virginia Tech and clinical expertise at Carilion Clinic. Research conducted by scientists at the institute is aimed at understanding the molecular basis for health and disease, and development of diagnostic tools, treatments, and therapies that will contribute to the prevention and solution of existing and emerging problems in contemporary medicine.

In early June of this year, VTC's four-year doctorate of medicine program received preliminary accreditation by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) and in July the school received certification by Virginia's State Council of Higher Education. Later this fall VTC will be seeking approval from the State Association of Colleges. The school's first class of 42 aspiring physicians will begin their studies in the fall of 2010 and graduate with an M.D. degree in the spring of 2014.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

i3 Network Launched in Blacksburg

The first U.S. hub of the global i3 Network has been launched in Blacksburg. The launch was announced by David Denny, director of the “Founders Hub,” during a presentation to the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center (CRC) annual banquet.

More than 180 business leaders were in attendance, along with an i3 Network business delegation from the Canterbury Enterprise Hub in County Kent in England.The i3 Network is a membership organization formed to promote and support international trade activities and collaboration for early stage or small sized companies and entrepreneurs with the potential to achieve high growth.

Organizations throughout the world that are engaged in the support and development of businesses, economic development and international trade at whatever level can gain access to the network contacts, services and support through regional hub organizations. The i3 Network is a project-based activity, organized, managed and coordinated by its members.

The Founders Hub will serve small businesses and entrepreneurs in portions of western and central Virginia and portions of four adjoining states through a growing consortium of public and private organizations and colleges/universities.

In addition to business support and exchange opportunities, the Founders Hub is developing components to support student entrepreneurs and to provide matchmaking between entrepreneurs and Angel Investors/VC groups globally.

Monday, August 10, 2009

CRC Gets Growth Funds from Feds

The Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, one of the region’s primary generator of top-level technology jobs is on the edge of nearly doubling in size and creating 2,000 more jobs.

The Economic Development Administration, a federal program, has given the Virginia Tech Foundation and the Town of Blacksburg a $1.9 million grant with growth at the CRC in mind.

Congressman Rick Boucher said, "I am pleased that the Department of Commerce has recognized the success of Virginia Tech's Corporate Research Center and has appropriately awarded a significant grant in order for the CRC to double in size."

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, who announced the grant, said, "The Obama Administration is committed to creating jobs, encouraging innovation and improving our nation's economic competitiveness. The Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center expansion is vital to helping the Blacksburg region continue to attract new industry, generate private sector jobs in high-tech marketplaces, and enhance competitiveness."

"Virginia Tech's Corporate Research Center already serves as a powerful economic engine for the region, and this EDA grant will help broaden its reach and its economic impact," U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner said. "I am pleased to see this strong partnership continue between federal, state and local governments and the University as we work together to promote innovation and create jobs and opportunity."

The CRC has 27 buildings and 140 tenants on 120 acres. The CRC was designed for 28 buildings and it plans expansion along U.S. 460 at the edge of the Tech campus on a tract of 95 acres. The CRC is nearing its 25th anniversary.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Coca-Cola Expands Into County; Donates Prius to Land Trust

Coke president Bill Elmore (red shirt) helps cut the ribbon and is shown with WVLT Board of Trustees President Janet Scheid>

Coca-Cola Bottling has announced the opening of its new warehouse and logistics center at the Valley Gateway Industrial Park in Roanoke County. The expansion represents an investment of more than $9 million and 10 new jobs in the Roanoke Valley.

Bill Elmore, Coca-Cola Consolidated President and Chief Operating Officer, said, “This investment includes a new bottling line at our downtown Roanoke manufacturing plant on Shenandoah Avenue and the opening of our new warehouse and logistics center at Valley Gateway.”

"Coca-Cola Consolidated's location in the Valley Gateway shell building is ideal for their business operations and will allow them to establish a stronger corporate presence in the Roanoke Valley," said Jill Loope of the county’s Department of Economic Development.

In addition, Coca-Cola Consolidated announced a partnership with the Western Virginia Land Trust to sponsor the Conservation Celebration in September, where the Land Trust will be honoring the conservation achievements of Virginia Governor Tim Kaine. The Western Virginia Land Trust promotes the conservation of western Virginia’s natural resources: farms, forests, waterways and rural landscapes.

Since its founding in 1996, the Land Trust has helped to conserve more than 71,000 acres of land in the Commonwealth. Coca-Cola Consolidated is donating a Toyota Prius to the Land Trust to assist in its mission. Bill Elmore noted that “The Coca-Cola system has set a goal to return 100 percent of the water we use back to nature. We are pleased to be able to promote this goal by supporting the Land Trust in the creation and maintenance of healthy watersheds throughout western Virginia.”

Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated is the second largest Coca-Cola Bottler in the United States. With Corporate offices in Charlotte, the Company does business in eleven states, primarily in the Southeast.

Lien-holder Buys Patrick Henry Hotel for $2 Million

Substitute Trustee Bill Mason reads the details for bidders^

Potomac's Kristin Duffy talks to her client after placing winning bid^


Potomac Realty Capital of Delaware has gone from lien holder to owner of the Patrick Henry Hotel following a $2 million bid at an auction this morning on the Roanoke City Courthouse steps. Potomac representative Kristin Duffy placed the only bid and heard lawyer Cooper Youell of Roanoke, who was representing an unnamed client, bellow, "She can have it for $2 million." That ended the bidding.

Youell said he was not representing developer Ed Walker, who has been involved in some high profile rehabs downtown recently, but he would not name his client.

Duffy refused to say anything about her client, future plans or anything else. Potomac was the holder of a note that was in default. The owner of the hotel was Affirmative Equities of New York, which is in bankruptcy (Chapter 11, then 7), filed a little over half a year ago.

The Patrick Henry was recently valued at $3.7 million. Potomac has 30 days to satisfy the conditions of the sale, but Bill Mason, a substitute trustee for the sale, said money will not change hands because the note Potomac holds is for more than $2 million. Potomac bought both the building and any debt associated with it.

The 125-room Patrick Henry was built in 1925 and is an historic property.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Mease Leaving City of Roanoke Position

Stuart Mease: Leaving for Rackspace in Blacksburg^

Roanoke is getting ready to lose a guy who has had an almost thunderous impact in the last couple of years since City Manager Darlene Burcham created a job for him. Stuart Mease, who has been Special Projects Director and has made the city safe for young people in suits, is leaving the job to become recruiting manager for Rackspace E-mail and Apps in Blacksburg.

Stuart, the father of a baby girl, never moved from Blacksburg to Roanoke and the daily 40-miles each way commute--with a young family--has become a bit much for the entire family, he said. His loss comes as the city is still trying to replace his immediate supervisor, Brian Brown, who left as economic development director a few months ago to go with a security firm in Botetourt County. The department has seven employees.

One of Mease's primary charges was to recruit and retain young workers, something cities across the country have targeted as a priority. He approached his job like a sports promoter (he has been a sports executive in the past). Mease often worked with NewVa Corridor Technology Council Director Cory Donovan in creating a kind of excitement about working in this area few had seen before.


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Patrick Henry Hotel on Auction Block Wednesday

The 10-story Patrick Henry was part of the "Golden Age of Municipal Progress" in Roanoke^

The Patrick Henry Hotel in Roanoke, a 90-year-old, 125-room facility that has been vacant for several years, goes on the auction block Wednesday morning at 9:30 at the Roanoke City courthouse.

The building is assessed at $3.7 million, but like Agnew Feed and Seed, an historic Roanoke City Market building auctioned off this past spring, it is not expected to bring that much. The purchaser would be required to pay either 10 percent of the price or $275,000 down and close the deal within 30 days, according to reports.

The Patrick Henry is owned by Affirmative Equities of New York. It is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, filed a little over half a year ago. The lender, Potomac Realty Capital of Delaware, is moving toward foreclosure.

The 10-story Colonial Revival Patrick Henry, opened in 1925, was designed by New York architect William Lee Stoddart and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The building was “the paramount manifestation of local urban transformation spurred by local civic leader, businessman and former Mayor William Wise Boxley. Boxley rode the wave of Post WWI nationalism and isolationism to engineer an urban renewal that is now referred to as Roanoke’s ‘Golden Age of Municipal Progress,’” according to the National Register.

The Boxley Building across the street from the Patrick Henry, is part of that “Golden Age.” It is undergoing renovation and will, itself, shake off years as an office building and become a hotel and condominium facility.

There had been plans nearly 20 years ago to convert the Patrick Henry into senior housing and it was sold for $3 million with that in mind, but a conversion price of nearly $30 million proved daunting and it never happened.