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Walk on the West Side: Consultants will go door to door to hear from city residents

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MARTINSVILLE – Although it probably will be raining, consultants working with city officials to improve traffic and pedestrian safety on Martinsville’s west side will walk through the district to get ideas on Wednesday, stopping to meet with residents at three locations along the way.

Their visit is part of ongoing efforts to make improvements to the district, including redeveloping the former Paradise Inn on Fayette Street.

A 100 percent chance of rain is in the forecast for Wednesday, starting during the early morning hours and continuing until late that night, according to the National Weather Service.

However, the walking tour will go on rain or shine, city Zoning Administrator/Community Planner Susan McCulloch said.

“We have a tight timeline” to meet, McCulloch said, in plans to apply for a Smart Scale grant from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to help with the project.

Smart Scale is a program in which potential transportation improvement projects undergo a scoring process. The Commonwealth Transportation Board then prioritizes funding based on the scores.

“We’ll just carry umbrellas,” McCulloch said, referring to city officials, consultants from Renaissance Planning Group and Michael Becker International, and staff members of VDOT and the West Piedmont Planning District Commission who will participate in the day-long tour.

Meetings with the public will be held at 10:45 a.m. at the Fayette Area Historical Initiative (FAHI) at 211 W. Fayette St., at 1 p.m. in Room 107 at the New College Institute (NCI) on the nearby Baldwin Block uptown and at 2:30 p.m. at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church at 904 Fayette St. Residents, business owners and community leaders will be able to share history of the west side with the consultants and tell them about improvements they would like to see made to the district and its streets.

Basically, consultants and officials want to hear ideas for improving vehicle flows in the area, as well as making the neighborhoods – especially the five-way intersection of Fayette Street, Memorial Boulevard and West Church Street – easier for people to walk through, according to McCulloch.

The tour will start at 10 a.m. During the afternoon, participants will see the former inn at the corner of Fayette and Beaver streets. Efforts have begun to eventually transform the dilapidated structure into a “healthy hub” where residents of the largely minority west side can go to buy healthy foods grown or prepared locally, as well as learn how to prepare such foods.

Officials have described the neighborhood as a “food desert” because it lacks either a restaurant or a full-service grocery store where people can buy nutritious foods.

They also want to hear ideas for Beaver Street, which runs through a residential area between Fayette and Memorial. The street gets a somewhat large amount of fast-moving vehicles trying to avoid the traffic signals at the five-way intersection. The city is exploring the idea of turning Beaver into a “cul-de-sac,” a dead-end street with a place at its end where vehicles can turn around.

The day’s activities will conclude with a meeting from 6-8 p.m. at NCI during which tour participants will discuss their findings.

Another public meeting will be held at 6 p.m. March 8 during which consultants will present their recommendations for the district, based on what they see and hear on Wednesday, McCulloch said. A location for the meeting has not yet been determined.

Mickey Powell reports for the martinsvillebulletin.com. He can be reached at mickey.powell@martinsvillebulletin.com

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