The headline for the 2017 Year in Review column stated, “Vinton Makes Great Strides in 2017.” It’s hard to believe things could have gotten any better in Vinton, but they did in 2018.
At the annual State of the Town address in December, Vinton Mayor Brad Grose told attendees that at long last, after years of nose-to-the-grindstone hard work by a host of individuals – and blessings from above – Vinton has become a “Go To” not a “Go Through” town.
Economic Development in Vinton 2018
Completion of significant economic development projects was the big news of the year.
Penalty Box Partners (a 10-member investment partnership) invested over $3 million in renovations at the Lancerlot Sports Complex in 2018. The new ice rink they built will host various collegiate hockey teams (VT, Radford, and VMI), youth and adult leagues, and the Railyard Dawgs for practice. Their ribbon cutting was held on September 29. The gym and fitness centers, swimming pools, and specialized facilities in the complex were also renovated with additional enhancements coming in future phases.
The long-anticipated Vinton Macado’s restaurant opened in November. The parking lot has been full ever since.
“Macado’s, since opening its first location in 1978, has worked with local communities to restore civic and historically significant buildings to public use and the new Vinton location is a showpiece of this commitment,” the mayor said in thanking owner Richard Macher and his team.
Brothers Angel and Edgar Vasquez opened “La Casa Del Burrito Taco Shop,” home to authentic cuisine, made almost totally on-site, with quick service at inexpensive prices.
“Vinton has a great history and also a great community and busy area, with lots of traffic, so we knew business was going to be great there,” said Angel’s wife, Roxanne Vasquez.
The Farmburguesa, a “farm to table” burger restaurant, opened in late July in downtown Vinton to much acclaim after several months of renovations to the former Angelo’s restaurant, by owners Jimmy Delgado and fiancée Kat Pascal, and Ashley Overbay and her husband Andres Pascal. There is already talk of adding a patio area for dining in the near future.
The Vinton Food Lion unveiled its new look after extensive customer-friendly renovations at a ribbon-cutting ceremony in October.
The Woodland Place venue held its ribbon cutting to celebrate new ownership, by J.D. Sutphin of Big Lick Entertainment and his business partner, Brian Brady. They purchased the property in January 2018.
“We had been looking at investment opportunities specifically in Vinton and after just one visit we truly fell in love with not just the property, but the chance to continue and expand upon its legacy; it was impossible to pass up,” said Sutphin. “We have been actively hosting dozens of weddings, parties, celebrations and more since purchasing the property at the beginning of the year, almost to capacity.”
Magnets USA announced a $1.5 million expansion to its Third Street location in Vinton. The company produces millions of magnetic and paper promotional products each year and serves about 35,000 customers nationwide.
Dr. Emma Jefferies opened Blue Valley Vet, a mobile veterinary service for large animals (horses, cows, pigs, goats, and sheep), based at the HIVE Business Incubation Center in downtown Vinton, under the umbrella of The Advancement Foundation (TAF).
Pari-mutuel off-track horse wagering is coming back to Vinton in the former Colonial Downs building in 2019 with elaborate interior and exterior renovations. The Colonial Downs Group (CDG), branded “Rosie’s Gaming Emporium,” officially broke ground for their new venture on December 17.
The organization plans to revive thoroughbred racing in Virginia through a $300 million investment enterprise across the Commonwealth, funded largely by a new stream of revenue from historical horse racing machines (150 of them at the Vinton location).
There were an impressive 80 new business licenses issued in Vinton in 2018.
The Advancement Foundation continued the renowned Gauntlet Business Program and Competition supporting both start-up and expanding businesses. In the fourth year, $200,000 in cash and prizes was awarded to participants, who included 103 entrepreneurs in Roanoke County, Vinton, Botetourt County, and the Alleghany Highlands. Over 100 local and regional business leaders served as mentors and advisors.
The Great Outdoors in 2018
Vinton has joined with the rest of the Roanoke Valley and Blue Ridge region in taking advantage of and expanding access to its abundant natural resources.
Nearby Explore Park now has overnight accommodations, which is anticipated to be a boon for Vinton economically, thanks to a partnership between Roanoke County and a Vinton business.
Don and Melody Harrison of Vinton have expanded their business to Explore Park with the opening of Don’s Cab-Inns Campground on November 30, providing cabins, yurts, and RV hook-ups.
In the spring of 2018, the RIDE Solutions Bikeshare program chose Vinton as its first venture in the Roanoke Valley outside the City of Roanoke. They added a bike station at the Vinton Farmers’ Market with bikes available for short-term rental around the valley.
RIDE Solutions launched the Bikeshare program in May 2017 with 10 stations in Roanoke City in partnership with Zagster, one of the leading providers of private and public-private bike sharing systems in the nation— an affordable and environmentally friendly way for people to explore Vinton and the valley.
The Town of Vinton has received a $1.4 million Regional Surface Transportation Grant (RSTP) to provide greenway linkages from Vinton to Roanoke City and to construct bike lanes, curb and gutter, and sidewalks from the end of Glade Creek Phase I to the Roanoke City limits along Walnut Avenue. Phase 2 of the Glade Creek Greenway will soon extend from Walnut Avenue to Gus Nicks Boulevard.
Vinton Police Department 2018
The Vinton Police created the new position of Community Services Officer, with Dustin Bray serving in that capacity. His duties including school liaison and school visits to enhance school safety in Vinton’s two elementary schools. The CSO will also handle animal control and code enforcement.
The Vinton Police, in conjunction with the Roanoke County Sheriff’s office, installed a drug take-back box in their lobby for citizens to dispose of unused prescription medications– built by students at BCAT.
The department sponsored a hugely successful National Night-Out Event in August.
The department became re-accredited by the Virginia Law Enforcement Professional Standards Commission in October— a tediously comprehensive process, led by Det. Sgt. Valerie Cummings— in which the department provides documentation that it meets or exceeds 190 standards. The Vinton Police Department is one of only 99 of the Commonwealth’s nearly 400 law enforcement agencies to be accredited by the VLEPSC.
In May, Sabrina McCarty was re-elected to Vinton Town Council while voters chose Mike Stovall to fill the seat vacated by Vice Mayor Matt Hare. Councilman Keith Liles was chosen by members of Town Council to serve as vice mayor.
In March, Thrasher Memorial United Methodist Church welcomed a new congregation to the facility— the Korean Church under the leadership of Pastor Baesick “Peter” Choi. The congregation meets at Thrasher on Sunday afternoons with Bible study on Wednesday evenings. All services are in Korean.
Vinton Baptist Church called and installed new Senior Pastor the Rev. Travis Russell in 2018. He was called in June and officially installed in November, in a ceremony that included Mayor Grose and Vinton Chamber of Commerce President Justin Davison.
The Arts in Vinton
Star City Playhouse added Munchtime Theatres as a treat for the community in the months when no full-length productions were underway. They continued with their second season in Vinton, with performances of “Gin Game,” “Private Lives,” “The Dresser,” “Cactus Flower,” “Mr. Pim Passes By,” “Box and Cox,” and “Fourteen.”
The LOVE Sculpture was unveiled on Washington Avenue, between Macado’s and the Vinton War Memorial– fittingly on Valentine’s Day. Vinton joined with Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge Travel and Tourism to build the artwork, which celebrates travel and tourism in the region. Each sculpture is unique to the area that builds it.
In the Vinton LOVE Sculpture, the “L” is made up of a bride and groom representing the wedding venues in the Vinton area; the “O” represents the history of the town with the Gish’s Mill waterwheel, using actual wood from the old mill; the “V” stands for dining InVinton with a fork and spoon; and the “E” is composed of a boat and oars, representing the blueways and boat launch located in Vinton.
The Vinton Public Library welcomed a new branch manager, Tyler Smith, and new Children’s Library Assistant Alyssa Carpenter.
Carpenter brought along the idea for a highly popular new program, “Caturdays.” The library is partnering with RCACP (the Regional Center for Animal Care and Protection) for this program with the theory that “Reading aloud to a furry friend can help children gain confidence in reading skills, plus reading helps cats become socialized and ready for adoption.”
Infrastructure and Transportation Improvements in 2018
The Town of Vinton was again named a state leader in recycling efforts with a remarkable rate of 64 percent in 2017 when the state average is 42 percent of refuse recycled.
The town received a second Urban Development Area grant (for $65,000) which has been used to establish guidelines based on Traditional Neighborhood Development principles for the Downtown UDA and to amend the Town’s current zoning and subdivision ordinances.
Improvements to the town infrastructure continued with the Cleveland Avenue Waterline Replacement Project, Phases II and III, which will improve fire protection and provide enhanced services to the residences in this neighborhood.
The traffic pattern at the intersection of Hardy and Vinyard Roads near Lake Drive Plaza has noticeably improved, with traffic signals at the intersection programmed to alternate the signals for the two sides of Vinyard. A signal head with a dedicated left turn on green arrow has been added to facilitate the moving of traffic.
Special Events in Vinton
The Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce continued its schedule of special events in 2018 including the Senior Expo, the newly renamed Grapes and Grains Festival, the monthly Mingle at the Market concerts during summer and fall months, Fall Festival, Downtown Trick-or Treating, the annual Vinton Christmas Parade and more.
There was the annual Dogwood Festival, the second annual Creekfest sponsored by Twin Creeks Brewing Company, Party in the Park concerts sponsored by the Event Zone, the first Virginia Steak Festival, the town’s annual Fourth of July celebration, Cruise-Ins, and others too numerous to mention.
According to the mayor, “We had over 116 music and dance events this year.”
Dr. Ken Nicely of Bonsack was first named Acting Superintendent, and soon thereafter Superintendent of Schools for Roanoke County.
“Ken Nicely is the right person, at the right time, to lead our school division,” said Tim Greenway, who represents the Vinton District on the School Board.
“We had the best person for the job right here, so there was no reason to spend tens of thousands of dollars to conduct a search,” said Chair Jason Moretz. “Dr. Nicely has been interviewing for this position for 25 years and we’re very pleased he will continue leading our school system.”
Two Vinton area schools started off the 2018-2019 year with new leadership: Leanne Leftwich left her position as assistant principal at Herman L. Horn Elementary to become principal at Bonsack Elementary. Julie Sandzimier became principal at Herman L. Horn with the retirement of Peggy Stovall. And WBHS football coach Jeff Highfill announced his retirement after nearly four decades.
WBHS senior Abby Spotswood was named 2018 Dogwood Festival Queen in addition to being Top Terrier in 2017-2018. Megan James was named Top Terrier for 2018-19, the highest honor a senior at William Byrd can attain.
Tanner Hough and Megan Wu were chosen by their peers as Homecoming King and Queen for 2108. Outstanding student Richard Qiu headed off to Harvard. Student artist Ashley Roop had her artwork transformed into a giant mural on the Western Virginia Water Authority building in downtown Roanoke.
Other news of note in 2018
- The Vinton Volunteer First Aid Crew received the regional Outstanding EMS Award
- Vinton Treasurer and Finance Director Anne Cantrell was named Vinton Employee of the Year.
- Nathan McClung was hired as Principal Planner in the Planning and Zoning Department
- Special Programs Director Mary Beth Layman retired after 39 years of service to Vinton and its citizens
- Long-time Crossing Guard Liz Bower retired from WBMS/WBHS
And the boom is not over in Vinton.
Here’s some of what we’ll have to write about at the end of 2019:
- The Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce is relocating the offices to the Charles R. Hill Community Center in January
- Twin Creeks Brewing Company is planning an expansion
- The town will institute a new refuse collection system this spring, supplying refuse containers for all residents for use with their new semi-automated truck
- The former Vinton Motors building at the corner of Washington and Pollard will be redeveloped by Dale Wilkinson. Plans include a “tap-house” style restaurant and a unique design.
- The $12 million William Byrd apartments project by Dave McCormack and Waukeshaw Development will be completed, converting the former high school into 84 market rate apartments with a projected occupancy in the fall.
- The fifth annual Gauntlet Business Program and Competition will include more localities and two business tracks.
- The town is working on an as-yet-undisclosed economic development project near downtown at the intersection of Pollard, Cedar, and 1st Streets involving five parcels of property.
- Off-track betting will return to Vinton this spring with the opening of Rosie’s Gaming Emporium in the Colonial Downs building on Vinyard Road.
- The town has received two VDOT grants to implement pedestrian safety countermeasures at the intersections of Vinyard and Hardy Road, and Washington Avenue and Pollard Street, to include pedestrian push buttons and signal heads, high-visibility cross walk markings, improved signage, lighting enhancements, and improvements to existing curb ramps with sidewalk improvements to meet ADA compliance– scheduled to be completed by December 2019.
- Valley Metro will institute major changes to Routes 35 and 36 in January to accommodate future economic development projects and better serve the transportation needs of the citizenry with reciprocating routes, with stops eliminated on “restaurant row,” within shopping centers, and on Cleveland Avenue.