In November 2015, the new Vinton Public Library opened— a project which seemed to progress at lightning speed once it was conceived.
That venture seemed to act as the catalyst for an impressive number of initiatives in the Town of Vinton in 2016— rezoning and re-development of the former Roland E. Cook Elementary and William Byrd High School sites into upscale apartments, renovation of the old library on Washington Avenue into a Macado’s restaurant, and purchase of the old Gish’s Mill property for preservation and potential development.
Alongside the library project the town proceeded with downtown revitalization efforts from the $700,000 Community Development Block Grant from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, which is now complete. Improvements were made to the Farmers’ Market stage; streetscaping funded by the grant provided new lampposts along Lee and Pollard. There is new signage along with new benches and trash receptacles. The grant also financed some infrastructure upgrades.
The greenways are in the process of being expanded in Vinton in two directions along Tinker and Glade Creeks and all the way to Gus Nicks Boulevard. Sidewalks are being added along Walnut Avenue.
As members of Town Council are often heard to boast, the year 2016 was a banner year for Vinton from an economic development perspective involving public/private partnerships, but also included numerous ribbon-cuttings for new businesses, which kept Town Council and staff and the Vinton Chamber of Commerce busy with events.
Vinton Computer cut the ribbon on its new location on Virginia Avenue, electing to keep the anchor store in Vinton. Chris Duncan and his father Keith of Vinton and Brambleton Computers also
celebrated their purchase of the Woodland Place venue on Niagara Road, and renovations to the property, with big plans for the future.
Simplicity Boutique opened on Virginia Avenue as well, along with nearby Parkside Storage and Parkside Express Wash.
The HIVE Business Incubation Center and The Advancement Foundation (TAF) sponsored ribbon-cuttings with the VACC for Dreyer Coaching, PA on Demand, Divine Precepts, Hamm’s Fine Foods, Flycodes, Ask Shelia, ADORN, and JOSAH.
TAF was also responsible to a significant degree through its Gauntlet Competition for grand openings of Earthworks Pottery and New Moon Creative Media just across Pollard Street.
The coffee shop in the Vinton Library changed hands and is now operated by Roanoke County Parks and Recreation as East County Café, still emphasizing Fair Trade coffee. Dunkin’ Donut is now open at Lake Drive Plaza.
Just down the street, Saunders Home Health Care opened a Vinton branch.
Probably the most anticipated and celebrated opening was that of Twin Creeks Brewery on Pollard Street, which Town Council and staff hope will lead to an awakening of the downtown area, as it has already brought in visitors from across the valley.
The December announcement that Star City Playhouse will be relocating from Roanoke to the corner of Pollard and Washington Avenue was taken as another sign that Vinton is undergoing a rebirth of sorts.
Lotz Funeral Home rededicated its chapel after significant renovations. Lynn Haven Baptist celebrated renovations to its educational building and dedicated an existing building to former Pastor Bob Wayne and his late wife Lois.
Rezoning has allowed for renovations to begin at Roland E. Cook Elementary and on the Macado’s at the old library.
Developer Dave McCormack of Waukeshaw Development who has taken on the former William Byrd High School renovation project says that “as of last week, we have cleared all of the zoning, contractual and development agreement stages with the town, county and EDA. In parallel with those efforts, we are very close to completing our ‘Part 2’ application to the Department of Historic Resources and the National Park Service, which includes detailed architectural plans to the building. Our plan is to have that submitted by mid-January. We will then begin the ‘permit’ set of architectural drawings. Our goal is to be in construction by summer.”
The old Gish’s Mill site still awaits formation of a vision and a source of funding in future years.
The face of Vinton Town Council changed with two new members— Janet Scheid and Keith Liles were winners in the May election. The town’s Leadership Team also changed significantly with Barry Thompson appointed as new Town Manager, Joey Hiner named Public Works Director, Thomas Foster hired as the new Vinton Police Chief, Chris Linkous named Fire and EMS Deputy Chief, and Anne Cantrell named Town Treasurer. Wayne Guffey is now the Chief of the Volunteer First Aid Crew.
The Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce continued to stage huge events in the town in 2016 which attracted guests from across the region with their Senior Expo, Wine and Food Festival, Fall Festival, Christmas Parade, and what turned out to be Mingles at the Memorial, rather than Mingles at the Market for most of the summer, as the Farmers’ Market was undergoing extensive renovations.
In addition, the VACC managed to turn a weather crisis into a success story by moving Fall Festival indoors to the Lancerlot through the generosity of owners Henry and Sarah Brabham.
Justin Davison was elected to serve as the new president of the VACC.
The Vinton Relay for Life met its goal of raising $75,000 in the fight against cancer with the annual event at William Byrd High School.
Vinton held its first Gospel Fest and partnered with the Vinton Library for its first Storytelling Festival. Patty Kiser was named the new Children’s Library Assistant.
Vinton area schools experienced some momentous changes as well. Longtime principal Dr. Richard Turner retired from William Byrd High School. Tammy Newcomb, who had been serving as
principal of William Byrd Middle School, was appointed as the new WBHS principal.
Todd Kageals, who had been assistant principal at the middle school, was named as its new principal. Peggy Stovall, the acting principal at Herman L. Horn Elementary, was made principal.
In other school news, the laptop program was expanded throughout the county to include seventh and eighth graders— a project promoted by Roanoke County School Board Vice Chairman Tim Greenway, who represents Vinton on the board.
The local schools and their students received many honors. Most noteworthy were the naming of William Byrd Middle School as a “School to Watch” and W.E. Cundiff Elementary School fourth grade teacher Lindsey Seiler Murray as a “Milken Educator,” a prestigious award known as the “Oscar” of teaching.
WBHS teacher Barbara McGrath won the Golden Apple award for Roanoke County Schools. Former WBHS student Tyler Caldwell won the Dan Piper Award and was also named the Outstanding Young Virginian in the Commonwealth.
Significant changes in Vinton included the retirement of David Jones from his longtime position as manager of Southern States, the retirement of the Bonsack Baptist pastor, Dr. Bob Moore, and the resignation of the Rev. Bill Booth from his position as the senior pastor at Vinton Baptist Church.
There was also an emotional reaction from citizens when the Town Municipal Pool did not re-open in 2016 and the beloved Aqua-Net Swim Club owned by the Finney family closed for business after 43 years.