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TOM LANDON | Special to The Roanoke Times
The old Naval Reserves building stands at the corner of Franklin Road and Reserve Avenue in Roanoke.
Monday, February 18, 2013
Welcome to the new and hopefully improved What’s On Your Mind. As a longtime subscriber, I’ve been reading this column for what seems like forever, and I only hope I can do it justice. If you’ve ever seen former WOYM columnist Kevin Kittredge in person, you know I’ve got big shoes to fill.
In the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking that years ago people might have written to the paper to ask questions that today we can answer with a click of the mouse, but what this column should aspire to be is the place you can go to get the answers to un-Googleable questions. If you want to know whatever happened to the actress who played Thelma Lou on Andy Griffith, you can Google it, or better yet, ask Ralph Berrier Jr. But if you want to know, as I do, which animals at the Mill Mountain Zoo are the ones that make up the cacophony of howls when a siren-blaring ambulance goes by in the valley below, then I’m your guy.
In addition to our weekly space in the paper, I hope to continue the conversation online on the new What’s On Your Mind Blog, where you can stop by and ask — and help me answer — the tough questions, creating our own little local search engine for life’s persistent questions.
So to begin, a reader asked about the old Navy Reserve building at Franklin Road and Reserve Avenue in southwest Roanoke:
Q: I was stationed for four very good years in Roanoke from 1968 to 1972. What is in store with this building? From the outside, it looks almost the same as it did when I walked out in 1972. I know the Navy Reserve moved out on Peters Creek. Thanks for your time,
— Boyd Walker, Glasgow
A: It seems to me, Boyd, that the reservists lost something years ago when they moved out of that funky building at 250 Reserve Ave. with the round windows on the sides that look like ship’s portholes: Who better to have sitting in the flood plain than the Navy, after all?
Built in 1949, the building was just one of the military reserve offices along that stretch of road — hence the name Reserve Avenue. The Virginia Army National Guard Armory that used to sit just past the north end zone at Victory Stadium was demolished in 2010.
According to Rob Ledger, manager of Roanoke’s economic development department, after the Navy Reserve left, the building became a maintenance facility for Roanoke City Public Schools. The sign on the red brick front of the structure still says Roanoke City Schools Maintenance and Operational Center. The two-story section at the rear is covered with white metal siding. When the school system left a few years ago, the building reverted to the city, which is using it to temporarily store office furniture. They’d love to find someone to move in and use the space in a way that produces some tax revenue. It is, according to Ledger, a prime, 32,000-square-foot business location.
The city is seeking proposals and hoping someone with a great idea will come along eventually, but it sounds like it’s not on the front burner at the moment. Ledger compares it to the old transportation museum building in Wasena Park, which, after sitting empty since the flood of 1985, was recently rezoned for commercial use and will soon be home to a new location for East Coasters bicycles.
Most of the other buildings that were once on Reserve were demolished to make room for the Virginia Tech-Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute, and the Cambria Suites Hotel. The new structures are built on stilts with parking below in hopes of avoiding the damage that could come with another flood, so any new occupants of 250 Reserve would have to take that into consideration.
Then again, the Ramada River’s Edge Conference Center across Franklin Road has managed to remain open in the 27 years since the flood.
If anyone has a plan for how to use the old Navy Reserve building, Ledger is entertaining serious inquiries by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Maybe a new restaurant owned by City Councilman Dave Trinkle: Fork in the Floodplain has kind of a nice ring to it, don’t you think?
Have a question? An answer? Call “What’s on Your Mind?” at 777-6476 or send an email to email@example.com. Don’t forget to provide your full name, its proper spelling and your hometown.
Look for Tom Landon’s column on Mondays. Read the blog at blogs.roanoke.com/whatsonyourmind/
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