Build District Roanoke: Sustainable Policy Design

  • Proposed Roanoke build district
  • Analysis of existing development
  • The Roanoke vision
  • Achieving the Roanoke vision
  • final board
Project Brief: Create a proposal for the revitalization of downtown Roanoke, Virginia. Entries can be in one of three categories: architecture, urban design, and urban planning.
Concept: A policy regime that caps building taxes in order to make infill development profitable for the city and private landowners.
Team: Carl S. Sterner, Lyle Solla-Yates.

A policy regime designed to make dense, sustainable development profitable in Roanoke, Virginia.

This policy proposal is designed to achieve Roanoke's vision of a dense, walkable, vibrant downtown. First, we conducted a detailed financial analysis of existing development approaches. Under current policies, land speculation via surface parking is the most profitable for downtown landowners (highest ROI). Historic renovation tax credits and direct subsidies for new development produce the desired urban fabric, but are costly for the city. Better policies are needed to make the desired development profitable for both the city and private interests.

Central to our approach was a cap on building taxes for new development — a policy that, according to our projections, would yield a competitive return on investment for developers (above 30%) and still generate money for the city (which could earn a remarkable 40% ROI). This scheme was applied to a specific geographic area — a designated "build district" along Roanoke's Jefferson Street corridor.

Ultimately our proposal was three-fold: (1) zone for density and mixed-use; (2) make density profitable by capping the building tax on new construction within a "build district;" and (3) finance specific improvements with the additional revenue. Together, these policies have incredible potential to create vibrant, walkable, sustainable development by creating a win-win situation for developers and city government.

copyright © 2013 by carl s. sterner, unless otherwise noted. more...