Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Roanoke Does the Right Thing With Building

Ed Walker at his (X)po last year.
Regardless of what that group of real estate developers says, Roanoke City Council did the right thing yesterday in selling the old health department building in downtown Roanoke to Ed Walker for $10.

A group of real estate investors bitched about the $10 sale of the 60-plus-year-old building to a guy who will, no doubt, turn it into an economic machine for the Old Southwest neighborhood, as he has consistently done in the past few years.

The investors were given a chance to bid on the building last year, but nobody came forward with a plan or any money. The building could just sit for years, gathering dust, but the plan here is to make it useful again. That was smart.

Walker will have to pay the city $140,000 if he doesn't do something with the building within three years and in renovating it, whatever the plan, he will spend a wad of cash. This won't be cheap. He has not said what he plans (and my guess is he doesn't know yet), but whatever it is, the plan will be thoughtful and good for the city. It might even be good for Ed.

An investor named Roger Malouf was quoted in David Ress' story in a local daily (here) as saying, "It's not about the building; it's about the way things are done." I'm not quite sure what that means. Malouf had his chance; he didn't take it, Ed Walker did. Ed tends to see better than most of us and there's no reason on god's green earth why that should be penalized. Give him his few months and watch this genius turn yet another useless building into an icon.

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