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Long Vacant Building Now Latest to Offer Downtown Living

Designer and architect Husain Alam (center) said he “fell in love with the history of the 1910 building. (Pic Gene Marrano)

Husain Alam and his Alam Design Group have resurrected a building at 105 Campbell Avenue SW in downtown Roanoke that was vacant since the flood of 1985. Now the former Norfolk & Western worker barracks, Piggly Wiggly grocery store and pharmacy – among other things – is Lightwell Lofts, 12 apartments of varied layouts, priced from $850 $1600 a month.

Designer and architect Husain Alam said he “fell in love with the history of this [1910] building and some of the architectural details like the stairs [a long flight up to the second floor] and the tin ceiling.” The project qualifies for state and historic tax credits, which means the Alam Design Group will recoup about 45 percent of the two million dollars invested in the project. “I thought it was going to be a challenging project – [that] we could make a difference in the city.” Alam also owns the building on Campbell that houses the Jimmy John’s sandwich shop.

In order for the renovations to qualify for the tax credits, which took almost two years, they had to leave much of the original footprint of the building in place – resulting in some rather interesting layouts in many of the apartments, which feature new floors, marble countertops in the kitchen and views of downtown.

Some of the well lit renovations at “Lightwell.”

The name Lightwell refers to a central skylight shaft which delivered sun to the barracks when it was built. That feature has been restored as part of the makeover. “It’s an amazing feeling and lets you sleep well at night knowing you’re adding value to the city, making something that’s 120 years old viable again,” said Alam.

At the ribbon cutting downtown developer and Roanoke City Councilman John Garland said he explored purchasing the building; “we looked at it from a development standpoint and we couldn’t get over the difficulties we saw in front of us. But I’m glad that someone saw past those and was able to overcome the [difficulties].”

From the viewpoint of City Council, Garland called it “a positive thing – anytime you can take a dead building and bring it back to life it’s a positive.”  City Council also helped out with an initial lower property tax rate based on the pre-renovation value, noted Garland. “Just having more people downtown and the vitality [added] … is a great thing.”

Gene Marrano




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