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Residents weigh-in on West Salem Auto Body Shop design plans

Construction to be complete by April 2018

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SALEM, Va. – The Salem community is sounding off on a new development. The West Salem Body Shop has been closed for several years, but a group that specializes in revitalizing properties is stepping in to save the building.

The worn vacant building has been located in downtown Salem for more than 90 years. The business is most recently known as the West Salem Body Shop.
    
But in front of a crowd of people seating inside the building, James Robertson came to set the record straight about the unknown history of property.

"My grandfather built this garage around 1924 and 1925 as a automobile dealership and garage to repairs cars," said Roberston.

Robertson brought pictures found in his family's attic to illustrate the building's history. The patterns on the floor, walls and ceiling are the exact same.

"Those pictures are a good way for him to have historical tax credits," said Roberston.

The Ed Walker Development Group purchased the property from the city of Salem this summer. The plan right now is the construct at least 10 apartments upstairs as required by their city contract.
    
Brent Cochran says they will use the downstairs as commercial space.

"It's going to have a restaurant in it, it might have some retail, it might have some office and it might have multiple restaurants. so that's the big question mark," said Cochran.

Right now there is only a verbal commitment from those interested in bringing a restaurant. Other ideas residents brought up during the public forum were an event venue or art studio.

To help answer that question, Salem residents came out for a public forum to comment on the property's future.

"Every project they've done has been successful and an asset to the city," said Allen Key.

"At least with these people coming in and redeveloping the property, it does give it a chance to generate income otherwise the homeowners in Salem pay the brunt,"

Developers say they plan to invest between $1.5 and $2 million to renovate the property while keeping the building's look as original as possible.

Cochran says they are still in the design phase but they are ready to start work in the upstairs portion of the building. They hope to complete renovation by April 2018.