Developer submits rezoning request for old BMS site

Conceptual rendering of the proposed Midtown development.
Conceptual rendering of the proposed Midtown development.

A newly-submitted proposal for the old Blacksburg Middle School site includes a corner plaza with a fountain, a central space for summer concerts or winter ice skating, and a park.

Called Midtown, the development is designed to be a vibrant community of civic, commercial, and residential uses, according to the developer. Midtown Redevelopment Partners LLC recently submitted a request to rezone the site and released its newest plans for the 20-acre property.

“We’re excited to finally be moving forward with our plans, which are a product of years of thoughtful conversation and consideration,” said developer Jeanne Stosser. “Midtown is designed to benefit all in our community and directly meets the goals and objectives outlined in the Town’s Comprehensive Plan for its downtown and the Resolution of OBMS Principles for the site.”

The rezoning request was submitted on April 13, 2018. It includes revised plans in response to public input collected from neighborhood meetings and meetings with stakeholders, Town Council members, and the Planning Commission.

Much of the property is currently zoned R-4 Residential, allowing four houses to be built per acre. Other parcels are zoned Civic, because the land was previously used for a school. Midtown is requesting that the parcels dedicated for residential use be rezoned a Planned Residential Development (PRD)—offering more flexibility—and the parcels near Main Street be rezoned from Civic to Downtown Commercial (DC).

“The way it’s currently zoned will do very little to help the town or boost our economy,” said Tom Raub, who co-owns two downtown shops (T.R. Collection and Sugar Magnolia) with his wife, Michelle. “We need foot traffic and people, not expensive homes with residents only during football season. Approving the rezoning request is the only way to avoid that outcome, and instead facilitate a community of long-term residents who will support downtown businesses like ours.”

Several other downtown merchants also support the planned Midtown development, citing the need to keep up with Blacksburg’s growing population. Local businesses, from startups to more established firms, are already eyeing the planned commercial office space for future use, according to Doug Stewart, co-owner of Kent Square and the new development’s office space.

“We’re currently in discussion with some major employers in the area and several restaurants,” he said. “Their move to Midtown will bring not only hundreds of employees, but will also elevate the downtown community as a hub for residents and retail.” The owners are also working with a national hotel developer to bring an upscale, modern 100-room hotel to Midtown.

In addition to commercial space, Midtown’s residential district will include a variety of high quality housing options from two-car garage townhomes to apartments and condominiums. The approximately 300-residential-units are designed to attract and encourage long-term town residents who are invested in the community.

“Above all, Midtown will be a place where we can all come together,” said Jim Cowan, a partner with Midtown Redevelopment Partners LLC. “This is the site where many town residents formed fond school memories, and we hope this new development will provide homes, community space, and more happy memories for a new generation of Blacksburg families.”

Midtown’s planned community space includes a large public plaza to serve as the entryway into the development, a central event space in the heart of the community suitable for concerts and winter ice skating, and a park near the residential neighborhood. Two other areas have been identified for civic use: a public parking garage, and a building for the Blacksburg Police Department and potentially a future library.

In order to proceed with the planned development, the Blacksburg Town Council must approve rezoning the land. The process will include a series of neighborhood meetings, Planning Commission discussions, and an open hearing, culminating in a Town Council vote (dates TBD).

“Given the community’s support for Midtown and improved iterations of the plan in response to years of community and stakeholder input, we’re confident that we have a great final product. Now we’re asking the Town Council to partner with us on this important project and approve our rezoning request,” said Cowan. “Then we can finally start laying the foundation for a wonderful addition to our community.”

To learn more about Midtown, please visit www.midtownblacksburg.com and follow @midtownblacksburg, #MeetMidtown.