By Debbie Adams
On November 20, Governor Ralph Northam announced over $1.4 million in Industrial Revitalization Grants (IRF) for three revitalization projects in Vinton, Warsaw, and Wytheville. The funding will support redevelopment of industrial and commercial structures in those towns.
The Vinton grant totals $468,750 and will be used for the Gish Mill Redevelopment Project. The Town of Vinton, through its partnership with Gish Mill Davii, LLC, will redevelop the historic Gish Mill into a mixed-use site that includes a restaurant, speakeasy, seasonal market, and lodging rooms. The IRF funds will be used for the rehabilitation and repair of the structure, as well as the demolition and removal of specific components.
Vinton Town Council adopted a resolution in April 2020 approving a contract for the conveyance of the Gish Mill property from the town to developers David Hill and David Trinkle (Gish Mill Davii, LLC), to redevelop the historic mill.
The town purchased the property, then known as Holdren’s Country Store, in November 2015 to preserve and rehabilitate the property for commercial use. The 14,000-square-foot structure was a former grist mill, then a farm supply retail and warehouse, operating continuously since the 1770s. The iconic mill is featured on the Town Seal.
The Gish Mill property is located at 350 Gus Nicks Boulevard along Glade Creek. Behind the mill are remnants of the historic dam that once spanned the creek. Water from the race turned the wheel which turned the equipment.
IRF grants provides gap financing to leverage local and private resources to achieve market-driven redevelopment of deteriorated structures, creating a catalyst for long-term employment opportunities and ongoing physical and economic revitalization.
“This funding will not only help transform deteriorating or unused structures, it will bring purpose and new opportunity to the surrounding communities,” said Governor Northam. “With these three projects, we are making important investments in our future. As we focus on recovering from the impacts of the pandemic, our administration remains focused on driving economic growth to every corner of the Commonwealth, especially in rural Virginia.”
Financial barriers often block the timely redevelopment of derelict structures, which require more than local resources to attract private-sector investment, and this is especially true in distressed commercial corridors.
Properties eligible for the grants must be vacant and deteriorated and may be redeveloped for any market-driven purpose, including mixed-use, regardless of the original use.
Projects were reviewed and evaluated competitively, with an emphasis on those with a high level of blight, identification of impediments to economic development efforts, alignment with regional or local strategies, availability of matching resources, the level of community distress where the property is located, and an identified and feasible end use.
“These blighted buildings oftentimes reflect an economic downturn in the towns’ past, but through revitalization and redevelopment, the community is breathing new life into these neighborhoods,” said Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “These projects align with the local and regional economic development goals and will leverage additional public and private investment in the towns receiving awards.”
Since 2012, IRF has funded 34 projects, which have generated over $121 million in public and private investment and resulted in the creation of more than 485 jobs across the Commonwealth.
“This is a huge win for the town and a great effort by the entire Vinton team to land this grant,” said Vinton Acting Town Manager and Economic Development Director Pete Peters.
“Obviously, this is a challenged site after years of neglect,” he commented. “Although we are very eager to be able to rehabilitate, repurpose, and preserve the 200-year-old founding structure of the town for generations to come, the cherry on top is that it will generate new revenue for our town, create several dozen new jobs, and establish a very unique attraction in Vinton that really doesn’t exist anywhere else in the Roanoke Valley.
“Vinton is truly establishing itself as a destination, and this is just another example of the positive redevelopment momentum the town continues to experience,” he said. “This project, like all others, wouldn’t be possible without great partners. They are the ones taking on all the risk and providing the investment dollars to make projects like this and Vinyard Station all work,” he said.
“The town’s role is just to foster an environment where it all works and where everyone is pulling in the same direction to create special spaces for people to enjoy themselves,” Peters said. “I am very much looking forward to working with David Hill and David Trinkle to make this project a reality.
“The dominoes are really falling in the right direction and the fact that more projects are on the horizon speaks volumes about how our community is reimagining itself,” Peters said.
The redevelopment project also plans to utilize historic tax credits to accomplish the redevelopment, with an expected investment of approximately $2 million and the creation of approximately 42 jobs.
Vinton Town Council agreed last April to terms for a Contract of Sale for the Gish Mill property to the developers subject to a nine-month due diligence period to pursue the historic designation and to allow the developer to secure both private financing and historic grant funding. If all goes well, the developers expect to close on the sale of the property in early 2021 and construction could begin shortly after.
“To state that the Gish Mill site bears historical significance to the Town of Vinton would be an understatement,” said Vinton Principal Planner Nathan McClung. “As the founding structure of the town dating back to the 1700s, this project site was the epicenter of economic growth and cultural formation for the town as it evolved over the next two centuries.
“The town greatly appreciates the awarding of this grant from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), which will provide the necessary funds for the redevelopment of the site,” McClung added. “Moving forward, the critical nexus of historic preservationism and economic development will be embodied in this project with the development team, the Gish Mill Davii, LLC, leading that charge.”
“Congratulations to the Town of Vinton for putting together an extraordinarily successful grant application,” said David Hill. “The IRF program is a visionary program, run by Virginia DHCD, and there are many, many more deserving applications than they have the money to fund in a grant cycle. The program is extremely competitive. So, for Vinton to achieve success on its first application shows that Virginia has great confidence in Vinton and believes in its success record of doing things right.
“Among others who have been so helpful on this project, Nathan McClung, Pete Peters, Barry Thompson and Anita McMillan have achieved a milestone with this application for Vinton, and the Town Council and Mayor Brad Grose have continued to be very supportive at every level of this complex endeavor,” Hill said. “I am both elated and humbled that the Commonwealth has decided to make this investment in our project and with this endorsement, more convinced that we can make the Gish Mill and Downtown Vinton a destination in Roanoke Valley.”