Buena Vista revitalization plan envisions new town square

By Shefali Konda

Buena Vista is trying again to revitalize its downtown.

The city held a public hearing on a proposed plan last week, but City Council has not approved it yet.

Buena Vista had similar ideas to renovate downtown only two years ago. Roanoke Developer Ed Walker bought properties in downtown Buena Vista in 2018, but he abandoned the effort last year to the disappointment of many business owners.

Buena Vista officials are calling the new proposal BV Forward. Kristina Ramsey, Buena Vista’s economic development and marketing coordinator, said the city received a grant in 2019 from the state Department of Housing and Community Development.

The city used the $40,000 to hire Studio Ammons, a design consultant firm in Petersburg, Va.

The design consultants studied the city and compiled a report detailing a proposal that would create a town square at the corner of East 21st Street and Magnolia Avenue. They also recommended relocating Buena Vista’s library from the historic courthouse on Magnolia Avenue to a more spacious building down the street.

Ramsey said GoBV, a private economic initiative with a goal to revitalize downtown Buena Vista, contributed funding and design ideas.

A GoBV flyer hangs in a storefront window in Buena Vista. (Shefali Konda photo)

For years, Buena Vista has suffered from financial troubles, especially in its downtown community, with empty storefronts and struggling businesses lining the streets.

The pandemic exacerbated the situation. But Ramsey said she is confident that BV Forward will turn the city around.

“The study overall gives us an objective analysis of our economic situation and a detailed vision for Buena Vista aside from what we’ve seen in the past,” she said. “Obviously, Buena Vista has seen better days and it is our ultimate goal to make it better.”

Brent Styler, a member of the city’s economic development authority, said he’s cautiously optimistic about the renovation proposal. He said he’s excited for a new start.

“There are good things that could come out of it,” said Styler, who manages Coiner Country Store on Magnolia Avenue. “It kind of depends on who wants to pick up the flag and run with it and right now. I don’t know anyone who is going to do that.”

Styler said he’s seen many stores on the street struggle to survive.

“Right now,” he said, “there’s a lot of viable businesses in this area that we’re trying to open during COVID.”