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Call It Westward Expansion: Downtown Living is Growing

Faisal Khan at the front entrance for 401 Campbell Lofts.

by Gene Marrano

Go West, Young Man, newspaper editor Horace Greeley once said, and while he may not have been talking about new living options in downtown Roanoke the sentiment still applies. One of the city’s newest destinations for residential space will be online in less than two months, when 401 Campbell Lofts makes its debut in a 60 year old building that once housed part of the Magic City Ford operation.

In fact, the Fulton Motor Lofts living spaces occupy the next building and The Lofts at West Station are just a block away – all signs that downtown living is pushing west in Roanoke. The Candy Factory and Campbell Garage Lofts are also in close proximity. The 401 Campbell Lofts, for instance, are just around the corner and within walking distance of the Kirk Family YMCA. The 15 units under construction will rent from $650 to $850 per month; all except for one unit are one-bedroom apartments. The modern industrial motif also includes sealed concrete floors.

That’s what is selling downtown these days said developer Faisal Khan, who owns the building with his father John. It’s the first downtown residential project for the Khans, according to Faisal. The duo also owns the old Merita Bread factory several blocks away but hasn’t figured out what to do with it yet.

Meanwhile they have sunk about three million dollars into the 401 Lofts, which features exposed beams and ductwork, original windows, limited indoor parking (in what used to be a Magic City Ford service area) and landscaped patios. There are four small commercial spaces as well, so a tenant could actually live and work in the building, which was formerly The Park nightclub. Some recycled building materials from the nearby Habitat Store are also part of the mix. There’s more parking outdoors for residential and commercial tenants.

The 401 Lofts qualified for state and federal historic tax credits, helping the Khans with construction costs. The building was actually erected in three different time periods, with a new story added each time, adding to its uniqueness.

Lana Seale, a realtor and property manager for Waldvogel Commercial Properties, said interest in the modern-looking apartments has been strong to date – all via Craig’s List, without the benefit of traditional advertising. Because the Virginia Housing Development Authority has backed some of the loans, there are certain income guidelines that must be followed for some of the tenants – assuring a cross section of people from different income stratas.

Faisal Khan, a Smith Mountain Lake resident who may keep one of the units himself in order to have “a place to crash,” is proud of the restored original aggregate stone facade, which is located on the Campbell Avenue common entrance for the building. Fitting the 401 Lofts and the parking spaces needed into a tight space “took some creative work. We kind of designed as we went. It kept it interesting,” said Khan.

“We did a lot of work… considering time and resources,” added Khan of the 1950’s-era stone. “It was very important that we keep this façade.” The building in general needed plenty of work. Inside, “we’ve done everything from the ground up.”

Khan finished up a doctorate in pharmacy about six years ago and decided to take a year off to focus on the family’s real estate, contracting and construction projects and never went back. All of the downtown apartments opened in recent months have been snapped up quickly; Khan expects the 401 Campbell Lofts that average around 650 square feet to follow the same pattern based on the interest generated so far.

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