Best Historic Rehabilitation
- June 28, 2012
Ed Walker, managing member of Regeneration Partners LLC, Roanoke
George Stanley, Cityscape, Richmond
Commonwealth Architects, Richmond
Brooks Stanley, Richmond
The $20 million renovation of this historic landmark returned a gem to downtown Roanoke. The 125-room Patrick Henry Hotel opened in 1925 and quickly became a hotspot for drinks, comedy acts and dancing in its elegant ballroom. By 2007, the 10-story brick and stone hotel — then under the ownership of a New York company that had filed for bankruptcy — had closed. In October 2009, local developer Ed Walker bought the deteriorating 145,000-square-foot building for $1.3 million and decided to restore the Patrick Henry to its former glory.
“Everything was almost impossible,” is the way Walker sums up the renovation. The first challenge was seeing if the 84-year-old building could be saved. “There was an enormous architecture and engineering exercise. It was a real risk, because the building was so far gone,” he recalls. “It was taking on water through a missing roof and stuff like that.”
Obtaining financing in the midst of a recession also posed a challenge. Valley Bank in Roanoke, which has provided financing for other Walker projects, agreed to put up the construction money, he says. Walker has been a member of the community bank’s board of directors since 2007. State and federal historic tax credits — used to encourage private investment in historic projects by reducing investors’ income tax liability — also were critical. A team headed by Walker’s company counsel, Cooper Youell of Whitlow & Youell in Roanoke, secured the credits. “We just had a phenomenal team that got the job done on time and on budget,” says Walker. “I get way too much credit.”
Construction began in late 2009, and the hotel reopened in June 2011. Some of the work was painstaking, including the hand cleaning and restoration of the ballroom’s crystal chandeliers, which had been spray painted.
Today the chandeliers sparkle again, and the ballroom is a popular destination for high school proms and other social events. Walker says all of the building’s 132 apartments have been rented to students at the nearby Jefferson College of Health Sciences. Local entrepreneurs opened a bar and restaurants in the hotel. Plus, there’s about 2,000 square feet of office space available for lease by local organizations.
Walker, a Roanoke native, has played a key role in reshaping some of Roanoke’s other significant downtown buildings. What strikes him about projects like the Patrick Henry is the “tremendous privilege to work with people where everyone is pulling in the same direction, with a low ego/high output type of approach … In this case, the community decided to take responsibility for its landmarks, and we charted a course to preserve the Patrick Henry. “
What made it stand out
The renovation preserved a historic landmark. The reopening also provided new opportunities for local entrepreneurs. The hotel’s lobby bar, Penny Deux lounge and the First and Sixth Restaurant— owned by local operators — add a lively vibe to Roanoke’s downtown scene.