By McKenzie Kane  

The city of Buena Vista has started phase one of its town square renovation project, which will include a pavilion and a small concert stage.  

On Jan. 18, city council unanimously approved spending $200,000 in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds for the project.  

Buena Vista is partnering with local timber framers and Virginia Military Institute cadets to build the 1,200 square-foot pavilion.   

A concept plan for the new town square from Feb. 22 2023.

The city bought the property at the corner of Magnolia Avenue and 21st Street in 2021 with a grant from the Virginia Outdoors Foundation.  

“When the property came up for sale right there in the center of downtown, it just naturally felt like a community gathering space, so we just jumped on the opportunity,” said Kristina Ramsey, director of economic development.  

After the city bought the land, City Manager Jason Tryree said, officials held public meetings at farmers’ markets and BV’s annual Mountain Day. He said they asked people what they’d like to see in the space: “‘Do you want a pavilion? Do you want restrooms? Do you want a gazebo?’ And then from there the architects put a town square design together based on what the people said they wanted.”  

Grigg Mullen Jr., his wife and son also are helping build the pavilion. They’ve led timber frame construction projects in the Rockbridge area since 1997.   

“The building itself is a vehicle,” Grigg Mullen III said. “But the real intent is to bring the people it’s for closer together.”   

Ramsey said Frank’s for the Memories, a small hotdog restaurant, used to be in the space. “There was a little gazebo,” she said. “There were music events. There was always a lot of people who just came to hang out.”  

Workers have begun digging up the concrete slab that covered a portion of where the town square will be.  

Volunteer Construction

About 130 volunteers will begin framing the pavilion on April 5 at the Mullen family’s farm in Rockbridge Baths. The volunteers include timber framers from around the country, BV residents and VMI cadets.   

Grigg Mullen Jr. said the volunteers will follow architectural designs created by VMI cadets Grant Andrews and Owen Clifford to frame the pavilion. The pavilion’s official “rising day” is April 9.  

The project’s first phase will also include concrete walkways, tree pits for future planting, and a structure for public restrooms. Later, Ramsey said, workers will add patio seating, floral landscaping, a stage canopy, and a “LOVE” sign designed by the Buena Vista Junior Women’s Club.   

Ramsey said the city is also raising money to finish the town square. She said city officials had been told that the whole project would cost $650,000 to $700,000.  

She said the project’s cost has already decreased because of donated materials and discounts provided by Leslie Excavating, Spencer’s Home Center and Hamilton Contracting and Septic for work they’ve done and will do at the site. 

The city is also relying on contributions from BV residents and others. It has created a website that solicits donations. The website includes a tracker that keeps a tally of the fundraising progress. 

Buena Vista is asking for local donations to help fund the project.

A $50,000 contribution entitles a donor to “Mountain Mover” status and exclusive naming rights of either the pavilion or stage.  

Tyree said the new town square will host a variety of events, including live music, weekly farmers’ markets, outdoor children’s book readings, and the annual Christmas tree lighting.   

BV’s farmers’ market had been held in the space until recently. But it had to move to Camden Field next to Glen Maury Park. It’s unclear how long the farmers’ market will be held at Camden Field. 

“I think [the pavilion] will be amazing,” said Victoria Swartz, one of the market’s vendors, “because we’ll have somewhere to set up under and we’ll be right in the middle of downtown where everyone is driving by.”  

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