Downtown Rehabilitation: Challenges and successes

Virginia’s downtown districts are teeming with historic buildings. While many of the buildings house businesses and offices, others, left vacant, have fallen into disrepair. Three Virginia communities have recently undertaken rehabilitation projects to revamp key historic assets into modern local landmarks—without detracting from their charm.

In Roanoke, the recycling collection business Brenner and Cycle Systems, Inc. is working to restore the old Virginia Can Co. building. The project began several years ago, but has hit snags along the way—namely, the structural damage is much greater than initially realized. However, thanks to the building’s designations on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places, the rehabilitation project qualifies for tax credits, which will help fund the renovation.

When the school board in Bristol decided to construct a new meeting space, they looked no further than the historic Bristol Builder’s Supply-Central Warehouse. The warehouse is larger than their old office space, which will allow for greater public attendance at meetings. The project may include preserving the original signage from the warehouse. Currently, board members are debating construction details, but they expect the project to be completed sometime in 2013.

The Wise Inn–Soon to be reopened for business

The Wise Inn, located in Wise, Virginia, has long been a centerpiece of the community. Residents cite the inn as the birthplace of Wise College (now the University of Virginia’s College at Wise), the best place to get Sunday brunch, and a prime spot to meet with friends or business clients. However, the inn has been closed for more than 20 years. Now, the community is striving  to reopen it for business, pulling together a variety of resources, including a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) through the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). Both the original inn—built in 1910—and an addition built in the 1950s will be restored to their times. The project coordinator hopes to have the inn open for business by 2012.

Want to stay up-to-date on historic preservation efforts in Virginia? The Department of Historic Resources distributes a weekly newsletter that deal with preservation, history, architecture, archaeology, planning issues, museums, conservation and other related topics in Virginia and elsewhere. To sign up, please contact Randy Jones.