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Save Our Towns looks at Lexington's downtown redevelopment

January 31, 2017

Front of Robert E. Lee Hotel
City leaders in Lexington, Virginia, took a risk on a developer who wanted to restore the rundown Robert E. Lee Hotel, which had been given over to public housing.

Lexington, Virginia, hangs its hat on its rich history, but not all of its physical assets have passed the test of time.

The latest episode of Save Our Towns tells how city leaders took a risk on a developer’s dream.

Lexington’s Robert E. Lee Hotel, built in 1926, had been the image of luxury before falling into disrepair. A local developer came to city council with an idea to return the building to its former glory, seeking tax incentives to get the job done.

While some city leaders hesitated, they were unable to ignore the chance to provide lodging in the heart of downtown, given that all the hotels were on the city’s outskirts. Now, the Robert E. Lee, along with another newly built boutique hotel, is bringing visitors back downtown.

The latest installment of the series also follows graduate student Maxwell Vandervliet, of New York City, who is studying urban and regional planning in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, as he tackles the subject in his monthly segment, Maxwell’s Number. Vandervliet gives a shout-out to the five counties in Southwest Virginia involved in the Virginia Emerging Drone Industry Cluster program, which will provide workforce development training in drone operation.

Save Our Towns also features Virginia Cooperative Extension geospatial specialist John McGee. Through the Geospatial Technician Education initiative, McGee, a professor in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, is helping community college instructors create a curriculum in small unmanned aircraft training.

Save Our Towns, created and produced by Outreach and International Affairs, is a series of monthly video episodes designed for mayors in small-town Appalachian Virginia and other leaders who are working to improve the economic life of their communities.

This month’s episode also includes an expert tip from Crystal Cook Marshall, of Blacksburg, a doctoral student in the Department of Science and Technology in Society. Cook Marshall, whose research focuses on alternative economic development in the hinterlands, urges town leaders not to rely solely on the manufacturing sector.

The show returns to Cleveland, Virginia, this season’s town being followed for a year, which shows off its recent facelift.

This episode also contains a bonus for towns – the option to ask for a study to be carried out by the Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance. The study, valued at $5,000, would include a consultation and look at governance structure, recommendations for capacity building, and ideas for economic development. One town will be slected from those that apply. Please see the video above for details.

Written by Melissa McKeown

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