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South Peak Starts Its Own Christmas Tradition As Project Builds Momentum

The South Peak Christmas tree can be seen as far away as the Roanoke Regional Airport.

Developer James Smith has a lot to be thankful for this holiday season, and the promise of more to be thankful for in the next few years.  The CEO of Smith/Packett is finally able to watch tangible progress being made at the South Peak development, the much-maligned hillside project on U.S. 220 across from Tanglewood Mall.  South Peak will welcome the first residents sometime later this winter or early spring, as the first of what could be up to five luxury condominium buildings is opened.

 A Hilton Gardens hotel will also make its way out of the ground starting in 2013, with an office building and additional shops to follow as well. Smith gave a brief recap last week as South Peak switched on the lights on a 35 foot tall Christmas tree, a Leyland Cypress from Floyd County that can be seen for miles, perched at the edge of South Peak’s top deck. More than 675 lights will help make sure that this Christmas tree is noticed.

Smith hopes to make the South Peak tree lighting an annual event, with the blessing of residents who will soon get to look at it from their two and three bedroom condo windows. “Tens of thousands of people pass by here every day,” noted Smith of the tree’s location.

At the lighting ceremony invited guests from Roanoke County government and others mingled in a heated tented, nibbling on catered food as Smith and Board of Supervisors Chairman Richard Flora offered brief remarks before the tree was lit.  The Patrick Henry High School choir supplied additional atmosphere by singing Christmas Carols.

Flora said that he, like many others, was “skeptical” about South Peak – formerly known as Slate Hill – in large part because it took so long to get the project off the ground after the hillside was initially stripped of trees and much of its dirt about a decade ago.  “I look forward to [South Peak] becoming a star in Roanoke’s crown, so to speak,” said Flora, “I’m just happy to be here tonight.”

A Christmas tree lit last holiday season ran off a generator that wouldn’t cooperate at times, so Smith was grateful for the permanent electricity that has finally made its way to the top of South Peak this year. “Last year, basically you just had a large track of mud,” said Smith.

Smith noted that the Hilton Gardens hotel, based off an award-winning design he and his team members saw in Gatlinburg, TN, will start to rise out of the ground in the next few months. Residents will start making their homes at South Peak in March in units priced from $300,000-$600,000.

Smith said Roanokers are finally getting excited about South Peak, and the possibility of living there, “now that they are to able to come up and touch . . . People are looking for something [new] to believe in.” He also said there was “pent up demand” for the type of condos and the setting offered at South Peak. The first building will feature 117 units, complete with an indoor swimming pool for residents and sweeping views of the Roanoke Valley.

“We look forward to next year doing this again and seeing what all we’ve been able to accomplish in the next 12 months,” said Smith, just after the switch turned on the Christmas tree lights.

By Gene Marrano

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