BUENA VISTA, Va. – A Roanoke developer’s involvement in revitalizing one local community is ending earlier than expected.
Ed Walker, who has been involved in redevelopment efforts across the area, informed city officials in Buena Vista that he will auction off the remaining properties he originally bought in 2018 in downtown Buena Vista. The purchase aimed to spur economic growth and development in the downtown area.
“I’m a little disappointed but real estate development is difficult,” said Tom Roberts, director of community and economic development in Buena Vista. “It takes time and doesn’t always go how you think it’s going to go.”
When 10 News talked with Buena Vista officials in 2018 about the redevelopment plans, there were high hopes that Walker’s properties would be transformed into retail and residential spaces that would attract people downtown and also help to highlight the outdoor amenities the area offers.
Roberts said the COVID-19 pandemic likely factored into Walker’s decision to pull out of the project early.
“A lot of the ideas, such as the axe throwing business that was planned for one of the buildings, just aren’t going to open in this environment,” Roberts said.
Rebecca Fairchild owns Becky’s Bridal and Formal and has been a mainstay in downtown Buena Vista for decades. She said she was excited when Walker initially expressed interest in Buena Vista.
“It made me feel good because he is important in revitalizing downtowns,” Fairchild said. “He’s done it several places.”
She said she had opportunities to meet and talk with Walker, and appreciated the vision he has for the downtown area.
“I’ve seen it everywhere. They have apartments. If you have apartments downtown, then you have stores that they (people) can go in and out of,” Fairchild said. “We need cafes, little boutiques, something like that.”
Roberts said despite Walker’s plans to sell his properties, Walker’s interest, connections and investments in the community are already showing promise for the future. Roberts said it helped the city secure $50,000 in planning grants for downtown revitalization.
“The downtown revitalization plan is going to be really important in sort of showing the vision for downtown,” Roberts said. “With community input we’ll build a vision for downtown and that will be a physical development vision and there will also be economic analysis of what will work well here.”
Roberts said one of the properties Walker sold will be turned into a work force training center for Dabney S. Lancaster Community College.
“It will train workers here in Buena Vista and bring people to the city for training,” Roberts said. “It will provide really important workers for our industries.”
Roberts said he feels Walker has positioned Buena Vista for future growth.
“His involvement really helped keep the ball rolling, helped get us the grants for the plan that we’re working on, helped rehab and make some improvements to some of the buildings,” Roberts said. “I think that he’s shed some good light on the city and just helped us think about redevelopment.”
Walker is expected to auction off his properties this fall.