Proposals submitted to renovate Fishburn Park cottage

Published: Jun. 1, 2023 at 1:46 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - A new proposal has been submitted to renovate the dilapidated Fishburn Park cottage in Roanoke.

The proposal was submitted by Freeda Cathcart and Roni Sutton to the Roanoke City manager and the Roanoke City Council to renovate and maintain the house in Fishburn Park.

“We’re not interested in buying the land or the house, we just wanted to fix it up for free, and maintain it with an understanding that we were doing it to benefit the community and not for the city to turn around and flip,” said Cathcart.

This comes after a previous proposal by Justin and Keri vanBlaricom to turn the cottage into a coffee house was declined. The vanBlaricoms’ contract with the city for the land runs until June 30. The coffee shop had received unanimous approval from the planning commission early in May.

“One of the things that we would like to see the city do in exchange for our efforts to take our private time and money and resources and talents to fix up the building is to fulfill Blair Fishburn’s vision for this park. A conservation easement could be put on this 15 acres to preserve it for future generations, which was his vision,” said Cathcart.

A conservation easement plays a big role in the proposal. The proposal also would establish a new nonprofit called “Friends of the Fishburn Cottage,” led by the community on renovation efforts, keeping the land in the City’s possession. Another aspect would include the City selling the property for “fair market value.” This comes after the agreement with the vanBlaricom’s is that they would be sold the 1.1 acres for $10. Though the vanBlaricom’s have said the will need to invest more than $150,000 into their project.

“I think that it’s a very serious offer to do that, I think would benefit everybody and I hope that we hear good things about it,” said Cathcart. Cathcart, one of the parties in the newest proposal, held concerns about the coffee shop in April.

A spokesperson for the city of Roanoke released this statement:

The property in question remains under an agreement and the City continues to discuss the purchase and use of the property, with the party to this agreement.

Currently, the City is not soliciting additional proposals for the property. Should the Council instruct staff to do so, as in the past, a request for proposals will be issued.

Cathcart shared that even if that’s the case, they want the community and City Council to be able to see what they have to offer.

WDBJ7 spoke with Justin and Keri vanBlaricom last Thursday, who shared they are still optimistic a solution will be reached on their current contract for the land.

“We’ve been working with city staff and trying to come up with a solution that everybody can get on board with. I don’t think it’s over, we haven’t got the exact plan yet but we should have something in the next couple of weeks,” said Justin.

Justin said they have until June 30th to come to a solution with the city but there’s been no update on those talks as of Thursday.

See the development submissions below: