Roanoke City Council voted to sell the old Health Department building at 515 Eighth Street, Southwest to developer Ed Walker for $10. He expects to spend millions of dollars renovating the building for office, business, and residential use within three years. The unanimous 6-0 vote (David Trinkle was absent) wasn’t without its detractors. Real Estate investor Roger Malouf, who’s running for Commissioner of the Revenue, and two other men spoke against the sale at a public hearing before the vote.
Referencing the $10 deal, Dallas Powell said, “A lot of these things are insider deals.”
Malouf said, “There’s one way of doing business for one set of people. There should be only one way to do business.” He was referring to a similar financial arrangement made with Faisal Kahn in buying the old YMCA building. He and Powell are members of the group Real Estate Investors of Virginia, and said there wasn’t enough time to get a proposal together.
Assistant City Manager Brian Townsend told the audience the city held a public meeting last summer, an open house last fall, and a sign was posted on the property for 60 days stating that it was for sale. He says there was some interest in the property but no one submitted a proposal.
Mayor David Bowers agreed city officials had done an adequate job of getting the word out about the properties. He said they’re not selling the building for $10. “There’s a performance agreement to go along with it.”
If Walker fails to meet the time line, he’ll have to pay the city $140,000.
In other news, Council voted unanimously to join Roanoke County, Botetourt County, and Salem to create the Roanoke Valley Broadband Authority. Councilman Ray Ferris says instead of having data sent through infrastructure the size of a pencil, it will increase to the width of a cup. Danville, Buena Vista, and Lexington already have this higher broadband capacity. City Manager Chris Morrill praised former Delegate William Fralin for finding a problem and then finding officials from various localities along with expertise from Virginia Tech, to solve the problem.
Fralin found out while trying to connect 20 offices for video conferencing, that it takes an enormous amount of bandwidth and the current system wasn’t adequate.
“Where will we be ten years from now?” questioned Fralin, in terms of computing power. City Council has already approved $1 million in the capital budget to help start the Authority.
– Beverly Amsler