Located in Russell County in southwest Virginia, Dante was originally settled in the late 1700s and early 1800s by western frontiersmen and farmers; explosive growth occurred in the early 1900s with the discovery and exploitation of numerous bituminous coal seams. The last area mines closed in the late 1970s. With the loss of the coal economy, the town began a steep economic decline. In 2016, the most recent renewed interest from residents prompted community organizations to begin discussions on a path to revitalization.
In January 2017, the Virginia Tech Landscape Architecture Program, with funding support from a Virginia Department of Forestry grant and from The Richard G. Gibbons Public Landscapes Planning and Design award, held a design charrette to begin generating a host of ideas for short-term and long-term actions to improve public open space located by the former trail depot for use by Dante residents and visitors. Second through fifth-year landscape architecture students participated in the charrette.
The charrette addressed public landscape issues and opportunities in Dante. Students and faculty met with Dante and Russell County representatives to learn about the town and its rich social, cultural, economic, and environmental heritage as well as its current challenges and opportunities. Student groups were tasked with identifying and investigating options for community revitalization using public open space. After a week of intensive work, each of the ten student teams developed a themed concept for the downtown Dante area. These were presented to Dante representatives in Blacksburg.
Project Team: Elizabeth Gilboy, Nick Proctor, Daphne Williams, Xiaofei Shi, and VT Landscape Architecture Faculty
Sponsor: Virginia Department of Forestry and The Richard G. Gibbons Public Landscapes Planning and Design Award