Downtown Vinton is experiencing changes
On my last excursion to Downtown Roanoke, I wanted to cry because of what once was. As a little girl holding my grandmother's hand, I was fascinated by the tall buildings and the businesses that were inside. Memories came back as I passed familiar locations that now are empty or house something new. Downtown Vinton may cause a similar reaction now that 4 to 7 buildings might be demolished because of a 2022 fire.
Vinton’s Town Manager Richard “Pete” Peters says a structural survey revealed five buildings are a total loss. The demolition may affect two more properties. In total, as many as 7 buildings could be affected. But officials will not know until the four extra buildings are torn down.
This brings to mind Petula Clark's 1964 hit Downtown which will be 60 next year. Neither Downtown Roanoke nor Downtown Vinton is what it used to be and Roanoke has never bounced back to the glory days but at least Vinton has a plan.
Agness Chewning the Director of Vinton's Chamber of Commerce describes the situation as“A great sadness, almost like a loss of a family member,”It’s that nostalgia and that history that we’ve all grown accustomed to and hate to lose". “But I think some new growth is going to be great and it’ll help build things even better.”
Memories of the way it was can sting
I can relate to the nostalgia, sadness, and feeling as if a friend is gone. Although I did not frequent Vinton's Downtown as much as the Star City I share in the sorrow of those who are troubled by what is going on on Lee Ave. and Pollard Street. This crossroads is as beloved as the areas of Campbell and Jefferson in Downtown Roanoke. When I read about the fire at DR Music Center. I wondered if the buildings involved would sit vacant for years or it there was a plan for renovation.
“It’s kind of a domino effect. We had the initial fire property and the adjacent property both on Lee and on Pollard,” said Peters. “Because of the close proximity and in some cases even shared walls and share utilities.”
Change is constant
For older residents who grew up frequenting Pollard Street and Lee Avenue, those longtime memories of days gone by can be overwhelming. I'm recalling right now how when I rode with two much older aunts they always drove in that direction to get to 460 rather than drive straight down Orange Ave. They said they were beating the traffic but I'm not sure it saved any time.
Roanoke residents were often frustrated at the rerouting and closing of streets in Downtown and now Downtown Vinton will be doing the same as they make plans for recovery. It takes a lot of patience and the loss of the buildings and their history to some will feel as if someone has died. I've been there and done that and it looks like it is happening again. The old adage is true that the one thing we can count on that is constant is change and GC Cameron was right in his song from the movie Coolie High. It really is so hard to say goodbye to yesterday.
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