Urban redevelopment for central business district of Martinsville, Virginia

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute


Martinsville, in Henry County, Virginia is located in the southwest part of the state about 14 miles from the North Carolina line. It is in that section known as the Piedmont, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains. It is 55 miles south of Roanoke. 30 minutes west of Danville, and approximately 56 miles north of Winston-Salem and Greensboro, North Carolina. The city was founded in 1793 and incorporated in 1873. Martinsville was chartered in 1928.

Martinsville is the county seat for Henry County, and is governed by a manager-council form of municipal government. Indicative of Martinsville's sound economy are the facts that it was comparatively untouched by the depression of two decades ago; that it enjoys a well diversified industry; and that the city's per capita welfare and relief expenditures, with one exception, are by far the lowest of all Virginia cities.

The fact that Martinsville is the trade center of Henry County with an effective buying income far above means that the city should have a bright future. However, this is not true. Retail sales are far below the Virginia average. The city is growing at random.

The city developed on a ridge running east and west. The Central Business District consequently developed along these lines. This has been the cause of many of Martinsville’s planning problems.

Up to the time of this writing the only areas in which attempts have been made toward the solution of these problems are traffic and parking. The city has no by-passes, loop streets and planned radials. This has caused enormous quantities of traffic to flow through the Central Business District.

Parking in and around the Central Business District is not inadequate. There are available spaces, but they are not in the right places. The result has been the mad scramble for meter spaces.

Strip zoning along the major traffic arteries has allowed business to leave the Central Business District, and relocate elsewhere. This has caused a land use mixture of residential, industrial and business establishments. Because of the emigration of businesses from the Central Business District, the merchants have not rebuilt, and as a consequence the buildings are in a very rundown condition which further helps to decrease retail sales.

The City Planning Commission has not effectively controlled this random growth by zoning nor made plans for future expansion expansion and development. Recently the Commission has become active in this redevelopment program and with, adequate public support, their efforts toward securing a Master Plan for the city may become a reality. Unless the city has a Master Plan to direct its growth all efforts will be fruitless.

Martinsville will benefit greatly from a redevelopment project. Once this project has been carried out, the city will once again attract many people. The new traffic pattern will provide easy access to the Central Business District, and adequate off-street parking facilities will eliminate the mad scramble for parking spaces adjacent to stores. The improved transit system will also help relieve much congestion since shoppers will be more prone to use the faster transit service in preference to private automobiles.

The new land use plan will simplify the shopping district where similar facilities will be located in the same area. This will make it easier for the shopper to locate his desired purchases. This, together with a harmonious grouping of buildings, with pleasant pedestrian malls, and parks and green areas, will provide the shopper with new interests and situations as he turns the corner.

The civic center will establish Martinsville as a cultural center and will contain many activities for both old and young.

The city of Martinsville will once again become the major shopping center for this area and will even draw shoppers from other cities. The new city will be convenient, quiet, it will have adequate retail and public facilities, and it will be as dynamic as the people who use it.