SALEM, Va. (WDBJ7) - UPDATE
City Council has approved Salem's economic development authority request to loan one million dollars to Valleydale developers.
The old Valleydale Food Plant has been sitting empty and abandoned for more than a decade. But city leaders are working with the building's new owners to breathe new life into the historic building.
The old Valleydale Food Plant has seen better days. Kenneth Mowles, 91, remembers them. Those memories are good ones.
"Oh Lord, I'm telling you honey I could tell you a whole lot of em but I better not!"
Back in the day, he used to work in the pork department here, and eventually became foreman. He worked at the plant for more than 45 years and was even on the Valleydale softball team.
"Right there," he said, pointing to a black and white team picture. "Me right there."
He remembers when Valleydale stopped bringing home the bacon and closed for good.
"Everybody was probably thinking the same thing, what was going to happen to it," Mowles said.
Nothing happened for a decade.
After being bought and sold a few times, a new owner took over this year. Led by Roanoke developer Ed Walker, they've already been gutting the insides of this beast of a building.
"We do see this as an opportunity to create a return not just on sort of the dollar investment on it but overall time and effort investment and the community investment," said Kevin Boggess, Salem City Manager.
He said the city is considering loaning the owners $1 million to help clear it out.
While nothing is set in stone, the city also approved a mix use plan-
meaning developers could add the three Rs - retail, residents and restaurants.
"That's what the really exciting part for us is," explained Boggess. "The partnership with a developer who's interested in trying to go above and beyond with some of these properties and create a real impact, a real positive impact for Salem."
Mowles said that idea is a home run.
"And then they're gonna give more people jobs here in Salem and be a whole lot better off I think," he said, "instead of just sitting there."
The loan would be paid out in $250,000 increments for the demolition work. Boggess said it would come from the city's "rainy day" savings account and would need to be paid back within three years with four percent interest.
He said the owners are working to develop the space to interest future tenants. They've also been able to secure historic tax credits to fund this project, in addition to their other endeavors around town.
The plan is not set in stone. City council will vote on the idea at the January 8 meeting.