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Repairing fire damage to Roanoke’s historic Compton-Bateman House would cost more than the insurer will pay.
The Roanoke Times | File 2007
The city of Roanoke has been trying without success to find a buyer for a historic 5,036-square-foot home that once housed police offices and was later a recreation center. If no buyer or renter is found, the city may propose razing it.
Thursday, February 7, 2013
The clock is ticking on one of the oldest buildings in Roanoke, the Compton-Bateman House that served for a half century as an anchor of the Villa Heights neighborhood.
While Roanoke’s insurer is willing to cover more than $500,000 of the cost of repairing the extensive fire damage from a 2011 blaze in the city-owned mansion, that offer will expire in June 2014, said Roanoke economic development manager Rob Ledger.
The city’s engineers, though, think the cost of restoring the 5,036-square-foot house could reach $600,000 — a significant commitment above what the insurer will pay. The city has been trying, without success, to find a buyer for the house for more than five years .
With that kind of money at stake, if nobody wants the building, it might be time to see if the neighborhood would rather raze the building and use its 3.4-acre lot as a park, Ledger said.
So he is pushing once again to see if anyone wants to buy or lease the building.
“We’re not trying to make a lot of money. We just want to find it someone who will love it,” Ledger said.
It’s a challenge, though. The city’s insurer has said it will pay up to $547,000 to restore the mansion to what it deems its prior use — that is, as a home. That could be a hard fit for many commercial users who might be attracted by the sheer size of the building.
On top of that, the house is not on a main street, so Ledger said that one potential commercial use, as professional offices, might not be attractive.
Nonprofit groups might find a home in the former recreation center, but the city would need lease payments high enough to cover maintenance and repairs. So far, the handful of offers that have drifted in haven’t reached that point.
“We’d want a reasonable rate. That’s not necessarily a market rate — we’re not expecting $12 a square foot, but we’re not going to lease it for $50 a month,” Ledger said.
Nor does the city want to give the house away. Ledger said the city would not want to sell the property for less than $234,000. That would be the price after the fire damage is repaired.
The city would want to know how the property would be used, to make sure any future owner or renter would be a good neighbor.
“We have to be good stewards of the city’s property,” Ledger said. “It belongs to all of us.”
The city acquired the property from the Bateman family in 1958, tax records show. Built in the Greek Revival style with handmade Flemish-bond brick, it was the home of the prominent McClanahan and Langhorne families, and is on land once owned by William McClanahan , one of the first settlers in the area. The Comptons bought the house from the Langhornes and later sold it to the Bateman family.
The city used the property as a satellite office for the police department and as a recreation center. But by 1999, city officials decided to sell the property because it was used so little.
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