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Center in the Square

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In the 1940's and '50's downtown Roanoke had a thriving nightlife. Businesses were open, there were four motion picture theaters. It all changed after World War II, gradually at first, then at an accelerated pace until it evolved into a deserted downtown during the decades of the 60's and '70's.

In the late 1970's downtown Roanoke and the area's arts community was in a state of decay. This declining, crime-ridden, blighted urban area was producing less than desirable tax revenues and area school systems were struggling to offer adequate science, art and cultural programs. Cultural organizations, located in the suburbs were inaccessible by public transportation and unpatronized by a broad cross-section of Valley residents. None of these organizations had permanent homes with adequate facilities to accomplish their dreams.
The formation of a business league in 1976 led to a comprehensive revitalization project called Design '79. In a storefront office in a very visible window on Roanoke's busiest street, Design '79 positioned an architect who was drawing plans for possible downtown improvements. Citizens were encouraged to observe and offer suggestions. Four months of call-in television broadcasts coupled with a panel composed of more than 100 citizens created a public wish list. Center in the Square was the resulting centerpiece of Design '79.
To be an active participant in economic development, both locally and regionally, by helping assure the financial health of vital elements of western and central Virginia's cultural quality of life.

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