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City of Roanoke to Collaborate With Developer To Transform Former American Viscose Property

The City of Roanoke, the Roanoke Economic Development Authority, and local developer, Ed Walker, are collaborating and co-investing on a transformation of the former American Viscose Plant in Southeast Roanoke.  Over the next several years, the collaboration will preserve elements of its industrial heritage while gradually transforming parts of the former industrial site into Riverdale, a 75+ acre mixed-use district featuring industrial spaces, residences, commercial uses, artist studios, maker spaces and manufacturing.  Riverdale will be fully integrated into adjacent natural and recreation areas including the Greenway, Roanoke River, and Mill Mountain.

“The Viscose site is one of my favorite parts of Roanoke – great buildings, history, businesses, and people.  It’s also in a great location to be a bigger benefit to Southeast in particular and the City in general.  It will take a long time, and we will be thoughtful and patient to get the best outcomes.  But, I’m optimistic that we will quickly see progress on site and make planning and design progress with consultants and partners.” Says Ed Walker.

The agreement that establishes the collaborative investment was approved at the January 17 Council meeting and includes a $10 million forgivable performance loan facilitating property acquisition, addressing immediate environmental and masterplanning needs, and removal of debris currently on the site.  This agreement requires and catalyzes at least $50 million of private investment and development.  An economic study prepared by Chmura Economics indicates that the first phase alone could generate more than $300 million in economic impact, supporting 2,000 jobs in the process.

“The Economic Development Authority of the City of Roanoke is excited to play a role in shaping the future of the former Viscose site at the Roanoke Industrial Center. This project represents a unique partnership of public and private investment that over time will create a new regional destination and have a transformational impact on both Southeast and the City of Roanoke.” says Braxton Neff, Chair of the Roanoke Economic Development Authority.

Following acquisition, scheduled to occur in April, clean-up of the property will commence, focusing initially on the 9th Street corridor.  The site is an historic district with a number of structures that will be rehabilitated and join the handful of vibrant and valuable businesses already present in Riverdale – such as Textur Furniture, Chris’ Coffee and Custard, Lab Sports Performance, the Star City School of Ballet, US Lawns, and Chemsolv.

“This is a site offering great opportunity that must first overcome many challenges.  This collaboration will help overcome these challenges and activate transformation of this part of southeast Roanoke”, says Mayor Sherman Lea.

In addition to debris removal following closing, Ed Walker will retain site and civil engineers and planners to address infrastructure needs and environmental and flood remediation challenges. Development of a master plan will identify building and land uses, zoning, and how the site program will best integrate with the surrounding community and area.

“This collaboration offers a once in a generation opportunity with one of the most proven and successful community builders in our City,” said City Manager Bob Cowell.  “When one combines what is possible with Riverdale and other efforts in southeast Roanoke such as the City’s Belmont-Fallon Target Area, the Partners in Prosperity Initiative focusing on additional affordable housing, and all the phenomenal work I Heart SE has been engaged in, an amazing positive future is possible in this portion of our City”.

“It is an exciting time to be living in southeast Roanoke with all of the good and uplifting action taking place around every corner. We are seeing houses, streets, businesses, our schools and library, all receiving the care and renovations that our SE community needs and deserves. And now this news that the Industrial Center will also be revitalized into a beautiful and bustling space that we can be proud to have in our backyard—it’s just thrilling!” says Sunni Purviance, founder of I Heart SE and Roanoke’s 2022 Citizen of the Year.

With Council’s approval, the Roanoke Economic Development Authority is expected to finalize the agreement at their meeting on January 18.

Inquiries about this collaboration should be directed to Angie O’Brien, Chief Strategy Officer/Assistant City Manager Apprentice at Angela.O’[email protected] or 540853-2333.

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