The much-anticipated redevelopment of the old West Salem Body Shop building in Salem is closing in on the finish line with plans to open this summer.

The community, which has been closely following the project, can get a sneak peek of the progress during an open house set for Thursday.

Brent Cochran, a partner with the project’s development group, said given the high interest in the renovations, the team wanted to present the results to the community.

“People got to see the before,” Cochran said of the circa-1928 building situated on Main Street. “This will give them the opportunity to see what it looks like now.”

The open house will offer a chance to walk through the 18 lofts created in the building that will be rechristened as the Salem Motor Lofts.

Work is still underway on two restaurant spaces slated to open on the first floor. Tenants are lined up for those spots, Cochran said, and more details will be released as their grand opening nears.

The developers plan to hold off on leasing the lofts until the commercial construction is also finished.

“We don’t want to put people in the building while it’s still a construction zone,” Cochran explained. “It’s best for everyone to open it all up at once.”

The building is on track to open sometime this summer, he added. A specific target date hasn’t been set. A prior goal of opening in April was pushed back after the group decided to add a second restaurant space and a large, rear courtyard that will offer outdoor dining.

The lofts, all one-bedroom units, are largely complete with only minor painting and other touchups waiting to be done, Cochran said.

The units boast quartz countertops, stainless steel appliances and built-in, high-speed internet service. The development signed on as a customer of the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority.

The redevelopment, which drew on historic tax credits, preserved the building’s hardwood floors and the exposed timber beams along the second-story ceiling. The structure’s freight elevator was fixed in place and became the framework for a central stairwell.

The rent range for the lofts will be announced once leasing begins, Cochran said. Of the 18 units, 14 are on the second story and four are on the first floor.

Salem Economic Development Director Melinda Payne said it has been impressive to see the transformation of the downtown building that, up until now, had sat empty for more than a decade.

“This is going to add to the vitality of downtown,” she said. “When you have folks living downtown, moving about on the street, it brings that additional vibrancy.”

The city sold the old auto body shop building to its current owners last year after acquiring it in a land swap.

The development group, spearheaded by Cochran and Ed Walker, paid $160,000 for the property. It also secured an incentive package from the city in exchange for bringing new living spaces and tax-generating businesses to the dormant site.

The project will fully meet those performance requirements, Cochran said. The developers, organized under the name Live Oak Partners LLC, estimate they’re investing approximately $3 million in the work.

Cochran, Walker and partners are known for a string of projects they’ve tackled in neighboring Roanoke. Last year marked their first foray into Salem.

In addition to the old body shop, the group snapped up the vacant Peacock-Salem dry cleaners and the shuttered Valleydale Foods plant.

The Peacock-Salem building could acquire its first tenant this summer when a new gym moves into the space, Cochran said.

The gym is slated to occupy about one-fourth of the building’s footprint, he said, and renovations for it are underway now.

Efforts to line up other tenants are ongoing, Cochran said, as is work on the Valleydale Foods site.

The Salem Motor Lofts project is coming to fruition amid a larger push to revitalize downtown Salem that has attracted new private investment to the district and helped businesses update their exteriors.

The revitalization efforts will continue later this year when the city aims to start the first phase of a major streetscape project that will bring brick sidewalks, new streetlamps, landscaping and other upgrades to the district.

The first phase of that work will focus on College Avenue, between Clay and Burwell streets, and will benefit from a mix of state and local funding. The city hopes to start construction in the fall.


What: An open house for Salem Motor Lofts

When: 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday

Where: 8 W. Main St. 

Alicia Petska covers what's happening in Roanoke County and the City of Salem.

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