Major development project proposed on HopeTree Campus land

Salem, Virginia – HopeTree Family Services, a long-standing institution with a history of serving orphaned youth, is currently considering a significant change to its campus. The organization is exploring the sale of a part of its land for a major development project, a proposal that could substantially alter the local landscape.

This ambitious project proposes a large-scale development encompassing up to 340 homes, 60 hotel rooms, 15,000 square feet of office space, and 7,500 square feet of restaurant space. Jon Morris, the CEO and President of HopeTree, expressed enthusiasm about the project’s potential. “I think the developers are looking to really bring something that’s not only quality housing, quality design but something that’s going to be very functional and accentuate the community,” Morris said.

Founded in 1890 by Virginia’s Baptist churches, HopeTree has a storied past. “At our peak when we were an orphanage, we would have about 450 kids on this campus living with us,” Morris recalled. Today, the capacity is much smaller, with a maximum of 16 residents at any given time.

However, the development plan is not without its challenges. There is opposition from nearby residents, like Michael Bentley, who fears the project will drastically change the neighborhood’s character. Signs protesting the HopeTree rezoning are evident in many yards. Bentley’s concerns echo those of his neighbors: “Having thousands of people living at the other end of this street is going to change the entire character of our neighborhood,” he said.

Traffic impacts and city council approval, particularly regarding a rezoning request, are key factors yet to be resolved. HopeTree has reached out to adjacent property owners since October 2022 for their input. These discussions highlighted the community’s desire for trails, given the absence of sidewalks or trails in adjacent neighborhoods.

The current zoning allows for 200 single-family homes, a number significantly lower than the proposed development. Bentley prefers to maintain the area’s natural state, tolerating only the 200 houses currently permitted.

While HopeTree does not see itself as the developer, it plans to retain ownership of about 25 acres, selling the remaining 37 acres to developers. The City Planning Commission is set to consider the rezoning of the HopeTree property on February 14 at the Salem Civic Center.

Donald Wolfe

Donald’s writings have appeared in HuffPost, Washington Examiner, The Saturday Evening Post, and The Virginian-Pilot, among other publications. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia. He is the Virginian Tribune's Publisher.

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