Wednesday, January 25, 2012

WestPlace Opens in Downtown Roanoke

Exterior of the old warehouse on Salem Ave. is now WestPlace.

Skylight illuminates the atrium area.

Living room/dining room combination in one of the small apartments.

View from a fourth floor apartment.

Three movies a week in the ground floor screening room.

Bar on the fourth floor.

Bill Chapman addresses the crowd.

Story/Photos by DAN SMITH

The West Station District of Roanoke continues to grow along what had been a hopelessly blighted area of Salem Avenue, mostly because developer Bill Chapman has never been steeped in Roanoke bias, he says.

Roanokers would tell you the place is not liveable, but Chapman's developments in the area around the Virginia Museum of Transportation continue to sell out to a combination of demographics from young people to retirees.

The newest is WestPlace and the next-door Beamer 25, a restaurant carrying Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer's name. They sit beside the Re-Store of Habitat for Humanity. The restaurant will open in late spring or early fall, Chapman says, and is being put together by his group, Beamer and Steve Parry, a restaurateur. It will serve Virginia foods and craft beers and will have outdoor dining. The restaurant will seat 100.

The new apartment complex is 60,000 square feet on four floors and has 71 apartments (1 and 2 bedroom) ranging in price from $500 to $1,050 per month. The size of the apartments ranges between 420 and 1,000 square feet. Agent Melissa Morgan says there are fewer than 10 apartments remaining to be rented.

There are a variety of amenities (for which residents pay $99 a month) including a movie room with a 125 inch HD screen, a weight room, a bar and off-street parking in a city parking garage across the street. "It is safe, covered, lighted and convenient," says Chapman. "Without the parking garage, there is no apartment complex. The city did a good thing when it built that garage."

The $7.6 million investment in the complex brings to $11 million Chapman's investment in what he calls the West Station District, which includes his Fulton Lofts, opened last year.

The location next door to Habitat is perfect, says Chapman, because recycle and renew are among the concerns in rehabilitating an old building.

This kind of investment requires a lot of belief in the area, he says. "You have to be confident. This is a tremendous risk with a lot of personal liability. In a building like this, when you start working, you don't know what's behind the wall."

The downtown area, he says, is much like the old Richmond warehouse district, which locals didn't want to develop. Outsiders did, however, and created an icon of the district. Roanoke "is small, walkable and doesn't have anything out of balance," Chapman says. "The YMCA created a new center of the city and the development is surrounding that.

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