Site of shooting gets new life as Community Solutions Center

The former Ms. Choc's Lounge is now a resource center for those in need

By Erin Brookshier - Virginia Today Reporter

ROANOKE, Va. - Wednesday marks the grand opening for a new community and resource center in the Melrose neighborhood of Roanoke. It’s a project that’s been put together by Feeding America Southwest Virginia, the Food Lion Feeds program and Roanoke City Police. 

It’s a building that has been home to everything from bars and restaurants, to late-night lounges. Wednesday it will reopen as the Community Solutions Center, a site for community programs, a training kitchen, and a location where kids in need can come for a healthy meal.

The grand opening comes nearly two years after a 3 a.m. shooting in the building left four people hurt back in June 2016. The incident led to a prayer circle just days later, where community leaders, including Police Captain Rick Morrison, prayed for this location to be transformed. 

It was a meeting that sparked the idea for a space that less than two years later has now become a reality. 

In the spot where a stage used to be, stands a brand new kitchen. There’s a meeting room where lawmakers can host events and get feedback from community members. There’s also a small room where people can meet with police officers. 

Police Chief Tim Jones says he’s excited to see a location where officers have historically responded to late night and early morning incidents turned into a space where officers can work with community members and get to know them in a positive environment. 

“We’ll be actively engaged here in positive outcomes and that’s a win-win,” says Jones. “The community wins, the city wins, everybody comes away with something good coming out of this facility.”

Years ago the location was home to Lowell’s Restaurant and Lounge, a place many people in the neighborhood say they have fond memories of. It’s a feeling those behind the community solutions center are hoping to bring back, by providing valuable resources to the Melrose community. 

The facility will host a handful of programs, including a fresh foods market, where people in the community can come shop for fresh fruits and vegetables. There will also be an outreach space for Roanoke Police and a community room for public meetings and training courses.

The Community Solutions Center will also house a production and training kitchen that will not only work to feed local kids, but also help get community members the culinary training they need to earn a full-time job. 

“If you need that recommendation, that leg up to get a job, they’ve got an opportunity here in the food industry to give you that springboard to success,” says Jones. 

“We’ve taken every inch of this space and converted it into doing good,” says Pamela Irvine, President and CEO of Feeding America Southwest Virginia. “We’ll have a workforce development training kitchen for culinary arts. We’ll be able to produce fresh meals for our children’s program, beginning at 500 meals per day.”

The goal is to eventually prepare 2,000 healthy meals a day that will be served at the community center, as part of Feeding America Southwest Virginia’s food truck and at other locations around the city. 

An open house will take place Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m. All community members are welcome to get their first look inside of the updated space. There will be tours and activities for kids as well. 

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