Roanoke City Council approved the sale Monday of historic Fire Station No. 1 downtown to a developer who plans to make it home to Black Dog Salvage General Store, a tap house and other tenants.
The council voted 7-0 to approve the sale of the 1907 firehouse on Church Avenue to Old School Partners II LLC for $100. In return, the developer must spend at least $2 million on its renovation of the 13,000-square-foot building and place the building in a historic preservation easement to permanently protect its historic architectural features inside and out in perpetuity.
The city made multiple attempts to find a buyer or tenant for the building since it closed to regular use more than 10 years ago. Old School’s proposal was one of four in the latest round.
“It’s definitely going to be a challenge, but I think we finally found the right proposer and the right proposal,” said City Councilman Bill Bestpitch.
“We’re just honored to be a part of it,” said Dale Wilkinson, a principal in Old School Partners. Veteran historic preservation architect David Hill is also part of the development team.
“David Hill was doing historic preservation before anyone else in Roanoke knew what it was,” said Councilman John Garland, a fellow historic preservationist.
The group previously renovated the former Roland E. Cook School in Vinton into market rate apartments, which have been a major success and point of pride for the town.
The fire station will likely present more challenges because of the unique purpose for which the building was constructed, and the strict limitations on changes that can be made to it under a historic preservation easement. In addition, the developer intends to use historic tax credits to fund the project, and that process comes with its own preservation requirements.
Old School’s original proposal, submitted some 15 months ago, mentions Black Dog Salvage specifically as a tenant. The Roanoke business — the subject of the “Salvage Dawgs” TV show on the DIY Network — will use the store to market its lines of paints, furniture, prints and other smaller items, but not its architectural salvage items.
The proposal also mentions a tap house and says Old School was at the time in discussions with “one of Roanoke Valley’s largest and newest brewing facilities” to become a tenant.
Other spaces in the building will house a “maker space” for trades and crafts or pop-up vendors, while the upstairs is slated to become a boutique guest house with seven rooms.
Old School has a 180-day due diligence period prior to the planned closing of the sale. The contract also includes $500,000 in performance guarantees for the city. In addition, should they sell the firehouse, the city would get first right to buy it back should it choose.
Only two people spoke at the public hearing on the sale, both in favor of it.
“Whatever we do to preserve history,” said Douglas Forbes, a tenant in the Roland E. Cook building, “it will reward us in the long run.”
Deschutes to buy Roanoke land
Council also approved a new deal with the Oregon-based Deschutes Brewing on Monday evening, two months after the company sought to pause to re-evaluate the scale and timing of its planned East Coast expansion here.
Under the new deal, Deschutes will buy outright the 49-acre site in the Roanoke Centre for Industry and Technology for $3.2 million by the end of June. The company was to have seen the cost of the land forgiven over five years as it met performance measures, such as beginning construction in June 2019, investing at least $55 million, employing at least 70 full-time workers, and be making beer by June 2021. Deschutes had said it planned a $95 million project with 108 workers and ultimately more than 150.
Other incentives included $3 million from Virginia’s Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund, $1.5 million in rebates for machine and tools taxes from the city and a $225,000 grant from the Roanoke Economic Development Authority for job creation.
The company can re-apply for all those incentives under the agreement.
Deschutes sought to change its deal with the city because of changes in the craft beer market that caused the careful, conservative company to re-evaluate the size and timing of its expansion.
“The industry has really evolved,” Deschutes CFO Peter Skrbek told council Monday. “We’re adapting to that. We want to be in the best possible health to execute a sustainable project that the community can be excited about.”