By Debbie Adams
Progress continues on an economic development project in downtown Vinton with the demolition of three properties at a gateway to Vinton off of W. Virginia Avenue.
In October 2018, Vinton Town Council adopted a resolution accepting Assignment of Rights and authorizing the Mayor and Town Manager to execute documents to purchase five contiguous parcels of property within the boundaries of the triangle at South Pollard Street, Cedar Avenue, and First Street in the downtown area.
Assistant Town Manager/Economic Development Director Pete Peters described the property as “the targeted catalyst of town council for an economic redevelopment project which will benefit the town by providing jobs and increasing the town’s tax base.”
Peters called the purchase of the properties “advantageous because of their close proximity to anchor businesses, public services, and ancillary services such as restaurants.”
In the end, six parcels were acquired by the Town, including one parcel behind Vinton Dry Cleaners at the corner of First and Cedar donated by Wells Fargo Bank. The town only had to pay the closing costs on that parcel. The approximate acreage of all six parcels together is 1.2 acres.
The properties included the locations of Country Corner, Super Auto Sales, a vacant lot, and an abandoned house.
The Wilkinson Group entered into a Commercial Purchase Agreement in April 2018 with Kenneth and Elizabeth Garnett to purchase two of the parcels and with F. Mark Goodwin to purchase the other three. (Dale Wilkinson is the developer for Vinyard Station and was part of the group who renovated the Roland E. Cook School into apartments.)
According to Peters, the Wilkinson Group originally negotiated the purchase price with the owners and signed two separate purchase agreements to buy the five parcels as investment property and to potentially eventually redevelop the site as a single parcel.
In late August 2018, the Town initiated discussions with the Wilkinson Group to secure the property for an economic development project with a different developer.
In early September 2018, the Wilkinson Group offered to “assign” their right to purchase the property to the Town and negotiated an extension on the two purchase contracts on the Town’s behalf. The Town agreed to reimburse the Wilkinson Group the expenses incurred to date to acquire the property.
Council approved the purchase price of $320,000 for the five parcels, which was $9000 below market rate. They approved additional funds of $55,000 as a general estimate for “Due Diligence” incidentals associated with closing of the property, such as an environmental review, property survey, title search, insurance, and legal fees.
In September 2019, Star Valley contractor Lee Lovern completed demolition on the Super Auto Sales property after being awarded the contract in an RFP process.
Over the years the property had housed a service station, a car lot, an auto repair shop, and a garage. Burned timbers in the ceiling indicate that the building caught on fire at one point. The soil in the demolished property area has been previously tested through a Brownfields grant with only traces of petroleum found.
Lovern allowed Vinton Mayor Brad Grose to take the first ceremonial swipe at the building.
On April 7, 2020, Lovern began demolition of the former Country Corner store at 537 South Pollard. The building was constructed in 1949 and had housed a tattoo parlor for several years before Country Corner took over the lease.
Two days later, Lovern moved down and around the block to 35 Cedar Avenue to remove an abandoned home built in 1910.
The specifics of the economic development project/s being considered for the properties are not finalized. Peters says that a hotel would be a “best outcome,” but there are other possibilities for the use of the properties as well.
The town plans to spruce up the site when funding allows–with the economic impact of the pandemic and subsequent freezing of discretionary spending. At minimum, they will plant grass, mow the area, and trim and prune the trees.
Photographs from the two demolition projects can be seen on the Vinton Messenger Facebook page. Some amazing drone footage of the demolition of the house at 35 Cedar Avenue by RVTV’s Trevor Fair can be viewed on the RVTV3 Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/roanokevalleytelevision.