Ramblings: Discount Parking Eyed for Service Workers; Lacks Statue To Be Unveiled; Fishburn Mansion Gets Restoration Grant

What are Ramblings? Ramblings are a collection of short items that have caught our attention for one reason or another.

What are Ramblings? Ramblings are a collection of short items that have caught our attention for one reason or another. We’re on the lookout for tidbits related to money in politics, data, business, civic engagement or interesting events. Think you know of something that could be a Rambling? Drop us a line at editor@roanokerambler.com and we may well write about it. Happy reading!

Roanoke is floating discounted downtown parking at city-owned garages, like the one at Center in the Square, above, for people who work in the service industry downtown. PHOTO BY HENRI GENDREAU FOR THE ROANOKE RAMBLER

Discount parking eyed for service workers

Roanoke is floating discounted downtown parking for low-income residents who work in restaurants, theaters, shops and other service industry jobs.

The idea proposed by PARK Roanoke, which operates city-owned garages and surface lots, is “to achieve more equity in the City’s parking system,” in the words of a report.

An eligible resident must make no more than $32,000 annually; work in the service industry downtown; and be a new parker to the city system. They could get monthly parking for half the usual price.

New monthly fees would then range from $27.50 for the garage on Campbell Avenue to $47.50 for the Center in the Square parking garage.

Brian Mann, who oversees PARK Roanoke, said the idea for the Service Industry Parking Program — with the tongue-in-cheek acronym “SIPP” — originated from a downtown worker. The local restaurant employee said they couldn’t afford to park near work.

Other cities have similar programs, and some members of City Council expressed an interest in the idea, according to Mann.

Mann will brief Council on the idea Thursday, before they decide at their next meeting whether to adopt the parking fee changes.

The program would reserve six spaces at the Center in the Square Garage, 10 at the Market Garage and unlimited availability at the Elmwood Park, Gainsboro, Campbell and Church Avenue parking garages.

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Henrietta Lacks statue to be unveiled

A life-sized statue of Henrietta Lacks will be unveiled today (Wednesday) in a plaza across from Roanoke city hall where once stood an obelisk to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

The dedication of the bronze statue is 11 a.m. at Lacks Plaza (410 3rd St. SW).

Lacks, who was born in Roanoke, unwittingly contributed to medical advancements when researchers used fast-replicating cells from her body. The 31-year-old had been undergoing cancer treatment in Baltimore when she died in 1951.

Since then, so-called HeLa cells have been used to study the human genome, the effects of radiation, and played crucial roles in the polio and COVID-19 vaccines.

The statue dedication acknowledges Lacks’s death on Oct. 4, which Virginia’s General Assembly this year has now designated as Henrietta Lacks Day.

Community leaders raised more than $160,000 for the statue and an accompanying Black history project that highlights important sites around Roanoke.

The statue was sculpted by Blacksburg artist Larry Bechtel, who created the statue of a fallen police officer outside the department. Roanoke artist Bryce Cobbs created a concept drawing for the statue.

Fishburn Mansion gets funding to guide restoration

Roanoke’s historic Fishburn Mansion will benefit from funding to guide its future restoration.

The city has been awarded a $40,000 grant from the National Park Service, which requires another $75,000 in local funds, according to a city report.

The grant will fund “pre-development planning services and architectural plans to determine the best and highest use for this facility, positioning the rehabilitation project to move forward with plans for construction,” the city report says.

City Council is expected to approve the funding at its meeting Thursday.

Known as the Mountain View Recreation Center, the Fishburn Mansion needs as much as $2 million in repairs, Michael Clark, the director of the city’s parks and recreation department has said.

Concerned citizens who formed the nonprofit Friends of Mountain View commissioned a report showing how much work the historic mansion needs. The group has also steered funds to the city for fixing the building.

The parks and recreation department says it intends to “make the necessary renovations and improvements to the Fishburn Mansion while maintaining the historical integrity of the building,” which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1955, the Fishburn family deeded the home to the city. Patriarch Junius Blair Fishburn, who lived in the home until his death that year, was a prominent banker, philanthropist and owner of the city’s newspapers.

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