The Roanoker - January/February 2018 - 19
into Roanoke from Charlotte, NC, and viewed the large Huff farm
along I-581 and immediately recognized its economic potential. The
rezoning for the mall was protracted, being fought by some residents
as well as the owners of Tanglewood Mall that had opened in 1973.
Ultimately, the battle was resolved by the Virginia Supreme Court that
ruled the rezoning was legal. Valley View opened on July 17, 1985, with
much anticipation and anchored tenants JC Penney, Leggett, Miller &
Rhoads and Thalhimer's. From its opening to the present, Valley View
has expanded multiple times to become a sprawling complex of retail,
restaurants, a multiplex cinema and office space.
The Roanoke Regional Partnership reported that retail sales in the
Valley View area totaled $480 million in 2016, representing approximately
one-fourth of all sales volume in Roanoke City. Brian Townsend,
Assistant City Manager for Community Development, states, "We
'import' a lot of sales activity from the population throughout the region
which also keeps the sales numbers looking impressive."
Even Roanoke's signature structure, the Hotel Roanoke, can attribute
much of its rebirth to the presence of I-581. Closed in the 1980s by the
N&W Railway, the hotel reopened as a hotel and conference center
through a partnership between the City of Roanoke and Virginia Tech.
That 1992 effort, known as the "Renew Roanoke" campaign, culminated
in several million dollars being raised for the renovation and expansion
of the Tudor-style hotel. The conference center addition was deemed
critical for a sustainable future for the historic structure.
With the increase in vehicular and commercial traffic on I-581 and
the ongoing economic development projects along its corridor, the spur's
interchanges needed upgrades if not outright reconfigurations. During
the past decade, much work has been done on the interchanges and a
sound wall along a portion of the highway has been constructed. The
Elm Avenue/Route 24 interchange was re-worked a few years ago to
address congestion concerns on the overpass.
The Valley View Boulevard/Airport interchange was reconfigured as
a diverging diamond routing system. Completed in November 2016, the
construction took two years and cost $64 million. The new interchange
not only provided better access to Valley View but has now provided
direct interstate access to some 100 acres of vacant land on the south
side of I-581 that will in time attract economic activity.
In 2014, nearly two miles of 15-foot high sound barrier walls were
erected to better insulate residential sections from traffic noise. The $4
million barrier system sought to partially relieve some 300 residences
and apartments from I-581 noise. The project was done in conjunction
with the Valley View interchange upgrade.
The future of I-581 involves its potential conversion to the proposed
Interstate 73. Though decades in the future, I-73 in Virginia will follow
a route from the North Carolina-Virginia border near Ridgeway, north
through Franklin County to a connection at the Elm Avenue/Route
24 interchange, and then along I-581 to connect with Interstate 81. In
2001, after numerous environmental impact studies and routing drafts,
the Commonwealth Transportation Board adopted its I-73 plan that
brought the route through Roanoke via I-581. While feasibility studies
for I-73 began in 1993, no additional funds have been appropriated
beyond the studies and route mapping. If and when I-73 becomes a
reality, the traffic volume on I-581 will be dramatically impacted. For
now, I-581 remains not only the main traffic artery through Roanoke
but also a key piece of the valley's economic infrastructure and will be
well into the future. I