Vacant lots are a problem for towns throughout Appalachia, but in Radford, Virginia, city leaders have brought life back to two empty pockets of the community.

The Carson’s Drug Store building stood in the heart of downtown Radford for nearly a century. A fire in 1992 turned the site into a heap of burned-out debris. The lot remained vacant for years until the city bought the property and resurrected the space as a pocket park. Called Carson’s Courtyard, the space is now a community hangout – from a quiet place to eat lunch to a cozy outdoor concert venue. Now, Radford is recreating that magic on the other side of town, too.

In the final episode of Season 6, Save Our Towns shows how addition by subtraction is helping Radford create gathering places in once-forgotten spaces.

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Also in this episode, former Blacksburg Mayor Ron Rordam, now the outreach coordinator for the Rural Resilience Initiative at Virginia Tech, urges town leaders to focus not just on jobs, but also on creating a place where workers want to live.

In Small Town Big Number, Ann Brown paints a rosy picture for the arts economy in rural communities, showing how investment in the arts can result in a big windfall.

The Glade Spring update focuses on blight and how leaders hope to tackle the problem in their historic town.

Save Our Towns is produced by Outreach and International Affairs and distributed to mayors and town managers throughout Appalachian Virginia and beyond.

Written by Diane Deffenbaugh

Vintage advertising murals have been restored at Carson’s Courtyard in Radford, Virginia.

Colorful vintage advertising on a red brick wall.
Vintage advertising murals have been restored at Carson’s Courtyard in Radford, Virginia.