Monday, June 9, 2014

Another New Historic District Can Spur Innovation

Bern Ewert talks about the Historic District Designation at one of the old warehouses in the area.
The hits just keep on coming with the new Bridges development downtown. The 47-acre area where the $100 million development is going up at this moment has just received an historic district designation, as part of the Roanoke River & Rail Historic District.

That means WVS Companies can apply for state and federal rehab tax credits, which have been elementary in much of the renovation of downtown Roanoke You might have guessed that former Roanoke City Manager Bern Ewert is at the center of this. When he became city manager in 1978, Roanoke not only didn't have any historic districts, but it was in the consideration phase of tearing down much of its heritage. Bern put a stop to that and today there are 15 districts, most of which have led to massive renovations and a whole lot of preservation.

Bern and son Aaron Ewert at press conference.
In fact, the Preservation Foundation (I'm on the board still, I think, though not very active) has been working toward this historic designation for a while. Within this large area are the Virginian Railway Passenger Station and the Heironimus Company Warehouse (Virginia Can Company), which are on the national register.

Ewert's son, Aaron, is the construction manager for The Bridges and he is one of Roanoke's dynamic young people who is deeply involved in making this an attractive, active place to live. Part of the new plan is to create a Roanoke River Blueway to go with the Roanoke Greenway, which goes along the river and beside The Bridges development.

A lot of good stuff is happening in that area because of some visionary people.

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