Urban Design Manual

The Urban Design Manual (PDF) seeks to establish general design principles by combining the expectations embodied in the City’s Comprehensive Plan, Neighborhood Plans, and Zoning Ordinance. These general design principles depict the attributes of the character districts that create our City and serve to preserve and enhance the character and quality of each district.
Urban Design Manual Cover
The Urban Design Manual emphasizes the importance of incorporating design elements that reflect the character of the neighborhoods by recognizing their value in creating a sustainable and livable city that attracts a skilled workforce, diverse residents, and returning tourists.

Please email Katharine Gray, Land Use and Urban Design Planner or call 540-853-1502 or if you have any questions.

Development Pattern
Incorporating design elements that reflect the character of the neighborhoods is sometimes thought of as being expensive and exclusive. Although it can sometimes involve more investment up front, over time it generates higher returns for residents, business owners, and developers alike.

This type of development pattern creates stable neighborhoods with lasting value, where people of all ages, ability and circumstance can reside by providing more options for housing, transportation, and employment. Furthermore, a built environment with lasting design appeal helps a locality remain adaptable and resilient in challenging economic climates.

Benefits to Residents
  • Higher, more stable property values
  • Active and healthy lifestyles
  • Increased independence for people of all ages, ability, and circumstance
  • Increased interaction with neighbors
  • Enhanced safety through natural surveillance of properties
  • Improved street safety through slower vehicle speeds and dispersed traffic volume
Benefits to Business Owners
  • Creates a destination where patrons want to spend time and money
  • Higher visibility due to slower speed of vehicles and alternative modes of transportation
  • Assists in the promotion and branding of Roanoke, attracting new residents and tourists
  • Improved marketing due to close proximity and cooperation with other local businesses
  • Enhanced safety through natural surveillance of properties at all times of the day
Benefits to Developers
  • Gain support for new development from surrounding property owners and decision makers who are often more concerned about design than land use
  • Ensures fewer vacancies by reducing functional obsolescence of buildings
  • Higher property values
  • Assists in the promotion and branding of Roanoke, attracting new residents, business, and tourists
  • Increased marketability of products that are accessible to people of all ages, circumstance, and ability
  • Reduced development costs through higher densities requiring less land; smaller parking areas requiring less grading, materials, and landscaping; and existing infrastructure connections
Character Districts
The Urban Design Manual is divided into character districts to make the information easily accessible. The character districts are:
  • 2-Family Dwellings
  • Industrial
  • Landscaping
  • Lighting
  • Multi-Family Dwellings
  • Parking
  • Public and Institutional
  • Signs
  • Single-Family Dwellings
  • Streets
  • Suburban Commercial
  • Townhouses
  • Urban Commercial
  • Utilitarian Functions
Key Elements
The key elements and urban design principles are described in 1 to 2 pages for each district. Photographs are included in each character district description to help identify the character district in which the property or building is located.

Vision 2001-2020 Quote
Good design is not optional. The quality of the physical environment - attractive streets, buildings, parks, and open space - has a direct impact on Roanoke’s economy, the sustainability of its neighborhoods, and the successful stewardship of its unique natural and cultural resources. Simply put, Roanoke must be a beautiful city.