Covington begins Project Sparkle to revive old Gordman’s store

Published: Apr. 21, 2021 at 6:20 PM EDT
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COVINGTON, Va. (WDBJ) - When Gordman’s closed all its stores a year ago, it left a big hole on Main Street in Covington.

“It was a real loss for the community,” said Mary Fant Donnan, executive director of the Alleghany Foundation.

The store – 30,000 square feet on three levels -- stood empty. But the Alleghany Foundation had an idea.

“We have opportunities sometimes to use our investment capital in different ways,” Donnan explained. “And in looking at this opportunity and the uncertainty of what might happen to this very important building in this very important location in downtown Covington, the board took on a new task.”

“This is a really unique situation,” Covington Mayor Tom Sibold said. “We’ve never done anything like this before. It’s thinking outside the box for sure.”

Basically, they bought it. Covington City officials are calling it Project Sparkle, and now in partnership with the city and county economic development authority, they’re looking at what comes next.

“The board took a new attempt to engage and made this purchase with the idea that the community will be able to use it in a great way, and now we are finding new ways to work with some community partners to take it to the next level,” said Donnan.

With a wide-open floor plan, it holds endless possibilities.

“We’re thinking big picture,” said City Manager Krystal Onaitis. “You know, multi-unit, multi-tenant. I mean, This is essentially a shell building. It can be whatever the market and the community decides we can support and sustain.”

“A mini-mall situation,” speculated Mayor Sibold, “where you take a lot of small businesses and just build some walls. You might have eight businesses on the ground floor.”

They are possibilities they’re looking forward to becoming realities soon.

“It’s always exciting to see Main Street starting to come back to life,” Sibold said.

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