Roanoke City Council approves sale of historic fire station No. 1

Old School Partners 2 will develop the property for public use

By Shayne Dwyer - Reporter

ROANOKE, Va. - Monday night marks a new chapter in the history of a downtown Roanoke icon. Historic fire station No. 1 has sat empty for more than a decade. But now it's official as developers won unanimous approval from the city to redevelop the building.

The developers have a due diligence period to get inside the building and go over everything with a fine-tooth comb. We've told you previously about the original proposal and the updated possible plan, but Monday's vote signifies the launching point to really get started. 

There's a new plan for an old landmark, and the crowds, they hope, are soon to follow.

"We're just trying to add to the fabric of the community, that's not just a saying, that's really what we're trying to do at this point," partner Dale Wilkinson of Old School Partners 2 said. "This isn't a financial windfall, it's really the public's building here and we need a public use inside of it."

After 16 months of negotiation, Roanoke sold the historic station which closed in 2007. The city looked at four other proposals for the building over the decade that followed, but none seemed quite right.

"Some people came up with some ideas that we didn't think were feasible, or we didn't think the community would appreciate, and so we just told folks we weren't interested in that," Roanoke City Councilman Bill Bestpitch said.

The plan from local developer Old School Partners 2 was what the city had been waiting for. It both preserves history and makes the space public for all to enjoy.

"It's a fairly small building but it introduces several new uses that are kind of mixed in a way that we haven't had before and I think that does represent something different in the downtown and can build on the other things that are here," Roanoke City Manager Bob Cowell said.

Blueprints still show plans for a small bed and breakfast in the upstairs area, with Black Dog Salvage retail and a tap house among other things downstairs. Plans are not final, but they know there is a big responsibility and they have a good idea of what they want.

It's a situation where we have to balance the economic feasibility as well as the preservation easement and the need to keep that building the way it is," Wilkinson said.

Construction is still some time off and developers expect a year to build. But now with council's approval, they're excited to dig in and get to work.

There is a historic Roanoke firetruck owned by a private owner inside the fire station. The city has let the owner park it there. With the sale he can no longer do so and he's looking for a new place to keep it.

"“There’s a lot of deferred maintenance that we have to go through to make sure the tenants have what they need as well, safety issues, environment issues, financial issues all those things are now going to start once we have our due diligence agreement signed," Wilkinson said.

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