Town finalizes Vinyard Station agreements

1577

DEBBIE ADAMS

Vinton Town Council members adopted two resolutions at their meeting on November 19 to finalize plans for the redevelopment of the former Vinton Motors into a mixed-use commercial and retail development to be known as Vinyard Station.

This is a design concept for the new Vinyard Station located at the corner of Pollard Street and Washington Avenue as the cornerstone of downtown Vinton. (Town of Vinton)

Council adopted one resolution authorizing Town Manager Barry Thompson to execute a Performance Agreement with Vinyard Station LLC and the Roanoke County Economic Development Authority (EDA) for the purpose of investing in public infrastructure and incentivizing the redevelopment of the property.

Council also adopted a resolution authorizing Thompson to execute a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the town and Roanoke County for financial support from the county for the Vinyard Station Redevelopment Project.

The Performance Agreement is valued up to $750,000 over a 10-year period. In addition to building improvements, a primary function of the Performance Incentive is to establish and partially fund the addition of centralized parking infrastructure for the downtown business district— supporting both Vinyard Station and other existing businesses.

Under the agreement the town will appropriate to the EDA an initial cash payment of $250,000 towards the purchase of eight vacant parcels for the purpose of establishing parking and pedestrian access to the site. The town has also agreed to an additional payment of $50,000 annually for a period of 10 years for the balance of the Incentive Grant.

The performance agreement contains protections that will relieve the town from the funding commitment if the project does not materialize, does not meet investment goals, or is sold before the end of the agreement.

Vinton Motors began in 1926 as a Ford dealership started by J.R. Frazier, Frank McDonald, and William Vinyard. The building was remodeled in 1969 as shown in this picture and will now be redeveloped into Vinyard Station.(Vinton History Museum)

In the MOU, the county has agreed to offset costs to the town by reimbursing the town for a portion of the Incentive Grant in the amount of $200,000, to be paid in annual installments of $40,000 over a five-year period, based on the net revenue the county expects to generate as a result of the redevelopment project.

The town requested financial assistance from the county in September. The Board of Supervisors approved the MOU unanimously at its November 6 meeting. The MOU takes effect on January 1, 2021.

Vinyard Station will generate new and increased revenue for the town through collection of prepared food and beverage, sales, personal property, business license, and real estate taxes. It will generate revenue for Roanoke County through sales, personal property, and real estate taxes. In total the project is expected to generate over $130,000 annually in combined increased tax revenues for the town and county. This figure is based on just the one secured tenant.

Total private investment for the purchase and renovation of Vinyard Station is estimated at $2.7 million, creating nearly 12,000 square feet of move-in ready leasable space. It will serve as a cornerstone of the downtown area.

The one current primary anchor tenant, who remains unidentified currently, has agreed to terms for a 10-year lease and will occupy about one-third of the total available space (4,800 square feet). That tenant has committed over $500,000 of the total project investment and anticipates staffing over 15 employees.

Developer Dale Wilkinson addressed council members, taking them on a “trip down memory lane” involving the years it took to bring the Vinyard Station project to this point.

He commended Assistant Town Manager Pete Peters for his “eternal optimism” and passion for the project and for “putting the structure in place in a logical way so that developers could move forward.”

He thanked Vinton Motors owner Billy Vinyard, who passed away in September, for his efforts to “do the right thing” and give back to the Vinton community through redevelopment of the property built by his family in the 1930s.

Wilkinson also thanked town leaders for their vision and for steering Vinton “down the right path.” He said many factors came together at just the right time to make the redevelopment possible. The people of Vinton attracted him to the project with their desire to become “a destination,” with Vinyard Station as the gateway, he said.

He noted that without the cooperation of the town, county, and EDA in providing funding, “the project wouldn’t have happened.”

“You all reflect the hard-working people who live here,” Wilkinson said to council members. “We hope to be able to emulate the people of Vinton with what we build here.”

He talked about the importance of trust in putting together a deal such as Vinyard Station. He thanked his partners Greg Rhodes and David Spigle.

Wilkinson expressed his regrets that Billy Vinyard did not live to see the project come to fruition.

Vinyard’s wife Virginia also spoke to council. She talked of her passion for history and her husband’s trust in Peters and Wilkinson. Wilkinson won Billy Vinyard over with their shared love for the bowstring trusses which make up the ceiling and his determination to not just retain them, but to make them a central focus of the design.

Developer Dale Wilkinson formed a bond with Vinton Motors owner Billy Vinyard over their shared affinity for the unique bowstring trusses at what will become Vinyard Station. (photo by Debbie Adams)

Vice Mayor Keith Liles talked of his childhood spent at Vinton Motors before and after school as his father worked there. He talked with Billy Vinyard every day and got first dibs on sitting in every brand-new car on the lot.

Vinyard called to congratulate him when he was elected to Town Council, commenting on his advancement from a boy in the showroom to a seat on Town Council.

Billy Vinyard in the Vinton Motors showroom in 1969.

As credit was given and shared among those contributing to the Vinyard Station project, Councilwoman Sabrina McCarty astutely summed up the predominant theme of the meeting and recent economic development in Vinton with the quote: “Build a team so strong no one can point out the leader.”

In other business, Vinton Police Chief Tom Foster asked council to adopt a resolution appropriating funds in the amount of $11,765 from a grant from the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services to be used for “Project McGruff & Scruff.”

He credited Jessica Parker, executive assistant to the chief of police, with spearheading development of the grant project. The funds will be used to purchase materials, supplies, and equipment for “McGruff’s Safety Club” to be hosted by W.E. Cundiff and Herman L. Horn Elementary Schools and the Vinton Branch Library and led by Sgt. Michael Caldwell. Home school co-op groups will also be able to participate.

The funds will also be used for “meet and greets” with McGruff, the crime-fighting dog, and his nephew, Scruff, at both town and other local events. Thus, the program will benefit both children and adults.

Items to be purchased when the grant is received on January 1, 2020, include an animated McGruff costume and Scruff costume, an event tent, folding tables and chairs, McGruff educational materials, crayons, a monthly subscription to Survey Monkey to collect feedback from parents and teachers, and other items.

This innovative program is unique in the valley and is meant to engage youth in order to make the community safer. McGruff, the Crime Dog, has a long track record of being an effective method of conveying numerous crime prevention topics.

Topics to be covered in the safety club program include: McGruff’s Safety Skills for Children, Let’s Get Smart about Strangers, Emergency Readiness for Kids, Stop Bullying: A Guide to Fighting Back; and McGruff’s Halloween Safety.

During meet and greets, safety information will be provided, including proper firearm storage in the home (with free gun locks distributed), keeping children safe on the Internet, strategies to address bullying, emergency preparedness for families, and proper disposal of prescription medications.

Council also adopted a resolution authorizing the town manager to execute a collaboration agreement with the Vinton Historical Society to operate the Vinton History Museum. The agreement will run concurrently with the recently adopted lease agreement between the town and historical society and formalizes the partnership between the two entities.