By DAN SMITH
Roanoke real estate re-developer Ed Walker, who has made a personal mission of bringing to life some of Roanoke’s best old buildings in recent years, has another target and another mission: the rehabilitation of the decaying Patrick Henry Hotel on Jefferson Street.
Saying, "It's time for us to take responsibility for our own community," Walker says that today he purchased the building from lien-holder Potomac Realty Capital for $1.3 million and intends to return the old hotel to its former majesty, with an additional investment of "$14 million-plus."
He says the goal is to have the hotel stabilized by February ("it's a mess; there's water coming in the roof now") and finish the project in 19 months.
He plans to build apartments on floors 3-10 (about 100 of them, ranging in price from $500 to $1,000, says Walker) and open Class A office spaces on the other floors. He also hopes to have a restaurant and bar.
"The goal is to take a building that has become a community weakness and turn it into a community strength," says Walker, who will use the same team of contractors for this project as he has for his others in Roanoke: George Stanley and CityScape of Richmond with Nathan Vaught as site superintendent. Stanley also has several Roanoke developments of his own. Walker has not yet hired an architect.
Walker has re-developed three significant buildings downtown, including Colonial Arms, which houses HomeTown Bank and upscale condos (where he lives); the elegant Hancock, which has a spectacular façade that was hidden for years under a 1960s renovation; and the Cotton Mill, which opened in this past summer and quickly leased most of its rental units.
Walker says he was recently in Boston to visit friends and decided to give the owner of the Patrick Henry a call “just to see what we could work out. The Patrick Henry has been sitting there decaying for years and it was time somebody did something about it.” As usual, “somebody” turns out to be Walker.
He found a receptive owner, willing to deal and they worked it out. Walker had been represented at an auction of the Patrick Henry in August, but the $2 million price bid by Potomac, the only bidder, was too high, he says. The former owner of the hotel was Affirmative Equities of New York, which is in bankruptcy (Chapter 11, then 7), filed nearly two years ago.
Walker admits he would "frankly rather not be compelled to do this, but I am not aware of the likelihood it would be done otherwise." He says ownership outside the Roanoke Valley has not benefited the hotel or the community for the past 19 years.
The 125-room structure was built in 1925 and was most recently valued at $3.7 million. The needed renovation is extensive.