Valleydale project moves ahead with plans for light industry, apartments

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Photo by Meg Hibbert
Plans to transform the long-vacant Valleydale meat packing plant on Indiana and 8th streets are moving ahead. An un-named light industry is interested in locating there, according to developers.

The transformation of the old Valleydale meat packing plant into a trendy “village” with a new light industry and apartments moved another step toward reality this week when Salem City Council approved the property for an Adaptive Reuse Project.

Live Oak Partners Manager Brent Cochran declined Monday night to name the interested industry that would use about 80,000 square feet of the building, but said it would, as the city had asked, “be a benefit to the community.” The entire building has about 160,000 square feet.

Cochran said he hopes the clean light industry would be announced soon and development started by early 2018.

At the Nov. 15 Salem Planning Commission meeting, Cochran proffered that in order to receive a Use Not Provided for Permit for the project, he, Ed Walker and other partners who now own the property and operate at “Indiana Street LLC” could include a restaurant, brewery, fine arts studio, multi-family housing, amphitheater or athletic instruction, among other possible uses.

Council members expressed enthusiasm that the long-abandoned meatpacking plant had already been cleaned up a great deal outside and inside by the developers.

“It would be great to see any of the 15 types of categories proffered,” Councilmember James Martin said. Vice Chairman Bill Jones said, “It looks 500 percent better than it did.” Council voted unanimously to approve the Indiana Street request.

No one spoke at the Nov. 27 public hearing on the project, which might be called “East Bottom Village,” as mentioned by Cochran and Walker at a walk-through in September. There was no opposition at the earlier Planning Commission public hearing.

Cochran reassured Salem City Councilmembers that historic tax credits, which helped the partnership purchase the Valleydale property and plan renovations, “is already in the hopper, and there will be funds.”

At the Nov. 13 Salem Council meeting, members endorsed a resolution opposing a Congressional proposal to cut out federal funds for HTC programs.

The property is located at the intersection of Indiana, Iowa and Eighth streets in an area which used to be known locally as East Bottom.

At the invitation-only meeting in September, Ed Walker visionary who has developed a number of former industrial spaces in Roanoke said he hopes to collect Valleydale memorabilia and remembrances from employees for a future exhibit.

“Once we get to a point of opening, we hope to have a reunion of sorts with people who worked here,” he said at the time. He also said he envisions East Bottom becoming a place where Roanoke residents will want to come once it is developed.

Nathan Vaught, who with his brother Vasse Vaught, is in charge of all the heavy machinery moving and clean out, said the Valleydale plant facilities are “environmentally in good shape. Smithfield [which owned Valleydale at the end of its working life and before it was sold to Live Oak] has such a vigorous process for decommissioning a plant,” according to Nathan.

Walker estimated the transformation would probably take from three years to five years, “but it wouldn’t surprise me if there are amazing things in 18 months.”

He added, “We want to make it great, something that will be sustainable.”

About 400 people worked at Valleydale in its heyday. Production of pork products ended about 15 years ago, but the offices remained open for another five years or so before office management was moved to a small location off Peters Creek Road and then to working from their homes.

In other actions at the Nov. 27 Council meeting, Councilmembers:

  • Approved small bonuses for Salem City employees to be handed out personally by their directors this Friday. The checks will be $246 after taxes for the city’s 475 fulltime employees, and $123 for the 50 part-time employees. The money will come out of the city’s contingency fund, City Manager Kevin Boggess said.

The bonuses are to express appreciation for the city’s employees who went without raises for several years during tough times. A pay study is underway, and results should be released after the first of the year, Boggess said, which will address pay for all employees.

“This is a very nice way to thank the employees who made the city what it is,” Councilmember Jane Johnson said.

  • Received an abstract of votes cast in the November general election. As usual, “Mickey Mouse” was one of the write-ins. The cartoon character’s name was written in as “Mouse, Michael” among write-ins for Salem Commonwealth Attorney. Incumbent Tom Bowers, who was unopposed, was re-elected.