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Major projects will boost Roanoke and Lynchburg's economy in 2014

Published On: Jan 01 2014 05:46:54 PM EST   Updated On: Jan 01 2014 11:14:13 PM EST

Major projects hope to boost the economy


2014 will be a year of big developments in Southwest and Central Virginia.

Several major projects will finish this year, creating jobs and pumping money into our regional economy.

If you've driven through Bedford on Route 460 recently, you've likely seen construction on the west end of town.

Work on a new Army Reserve Center is almost complete.  When it opens sometime between February and May, it'll bring around 400 military and civilian workers to Bedford on a regular basis.

"We think it's going to spur some significant activity and development in that area," said Bedford's town manager, Charles Kolakowski.

The center will be an anchor for a larger development called "Harmony," which will eventually include homes, a shopping center, and possibly several chain restaurants.

"I've talked with the developer and the realtor that are working on the project," Kolakowski said.  "They're actively working with a number of people, trying to get them here.  Hopefully, in the near future, we'll be seeing some actual construction."

Another major project is taking shape on the border of Campbell County and Lynchburg.

Liberty University's Center for Medical and Health Sciences will house a new College of Osteopathic Medicine.

In its first two years alone, it's expected to employ around 100 people. 

"We currently have about 25 faculty hired and about 25 staff," said Ronnie Martin, dean of LU's College of Osteopathic Medicine.  "We will double that number over the next 15 to 18 months."

The medical school will generate an estimated $50-million annually into the Lynchburg economy.

The building will be a major research center and a training ground for doctors, who can fill the region's growing demand for physicians.

"We hope to improve access to quality care and add to the excellent care that you already find here," said Martin.

The medical school will open in May.  It's one of several new buildings at Liberty that will be finished in 2014, including the new Jerry Falwell Library and a high-rise dormatory.

In Roanoke, a large development will change the skyline and extend the footprint of downtown.

"The Bridges" is a 22-acre project with apartments, retail stores, and office space.

Located across from the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine on Jefferson Street, The Bridges will cater to med students, but will be open to everyone.

"Those are not the only folks we're looking to bring in," said Aaron Ewert, project manager.  "We also want people who love the outdoors and recreation, who want to be able to ride their bike to work and be able to live, work, and play in the same area."

The first phase of apartments, 157 units in all, should be finished by August.

Several existing buildings on the property are being incorporated into the project.   An old warehouse that used to serve a lumber yard is being turned into a restaurant and coffee house.

"To be able to re-purpose the buildings, open up the riverfront, do things like a riverwalk, breweries, and restaurants, I think it will be a really cool thing for Roanoke," said Ewert.