Thursday, June 23, 2011

'Make Ed Walker King' of Roanoke

The new, improved Patrick Henry Hotel.
Ed Walker talks about how he did it and what it means.
Media surrounds Ed Walker at the ribbon-cutting.
Roanoke City Manager Chris Morrill cuts the ribbon as the media blocks everybody's view.
Your favorite editor has fun with a Founding Father, Patrick Henry in person.
It was the question/answer session following a talk I gave at the Roanoke Kiwanis Club yesterday when one of those at a back table asked, "What would you do to make Roanoke a better place."

I didn't hesitate: "Make Ed Walker king."

Simple thing, that. Just let him do what he wants because his record is such that everything would work as it should and the reasons would be the right ones. Ed does a lot of right things in developing Roanoke as a more liveable place, but it's not just that he develops, it's how. He's one of these rare people--and a developer at that--who does the right things for the right reasons. He takes care of people. He considers the future. He respects the past. He works across philosophical barriers and brings warring parties to his party.

The Patrick Henry is just the latest in a string of spectacular reconstructions of downtown landmarks--buildings destined for the landfill--that have captured the imagination of all of Roanoke. From what I can tell in my travels, Ed is the most respected man in the Roanoke Valley and maybe in a wider part of the state. Republicats, Democrans, liberals, conservatives, Walmart shoppers and Mercedes drivers, a wide assortment of people of many colors and body styles, crunchy and creamy peanutbutter fans, NASCAR and polo followers all think Ed Walker is a good guy. And they're right.

This hotel, where I stood reminiscing about some things I hadn't thought about in years this morning, could easily have crumbled into the street, leaving a parking lot that would benefit nobody. Instead, it will house probably 200 or more people of various income levels (some of them students at Jefferson College across the street), a few businesses and whatever else Ed can put in there that works for us all.

Ed once told me he wants buildings "where the lights are on all the time," showing signs of vitality. I suspect he'll get that with the Patrick Henry as he has with the Cotton Mill, the Hancock and the other buildings he's brought back to life. Next is the old Ice House in Wasena Park, a neighborhood desperately in need of a focal point. My guess is it'll get one with the renovation. And if it doesn't, Roanoke and Wasena lose nothing. Ed's the one taking the risk.

(The photo of me is by my old pal Don Peterson, a former colleague at a local daily. I took the rest of them.)

1 comment:

  1. I own a home across from the Cotton Mill and the Fork in the City and can attest first hand to what Dan speaks. It amazes me how much Ed Walker "Gets it". He has transformed this whole back end of Old Southwest into a once more vibrant neighborhood where people from all walks walk all night. Thank you Mr Walker, Thank you Dan for bring this out.