Villa Heights reopens to community after years of abandonment

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) - For the first time in nearly a decade a historic property in Northwest Roanoke finally is seeing some life. It was made official Tuesday with a ribbon cutting.

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Villa Heights is an early 1800s-era home-turned-rec center that was badly damaged in a fire. After sitting vacant for years, Restoration Housing took on this fixer upper.

Now they're opening to house a northwest church and several non-profits.

City Council Member Anita James Price became emotional at the ribbon cutting. She said after the building caught fire almost a decade ago, she had an interaction with a little boy that she'll never forget.

"I came up here to survey the damage and there was a little boy at the playground. He didn't know who I was. He just said, 'Ma'am, I don't have anywhere to go play anymore. I don't have anywhere that I can come and feel safe,'" Price said, becoming emotional. "That's what my dream and desire is, to make certain that our children have a safe place to play and be a part of where they live, and they don't have to travel outside of right where they live."

Isabel Thornton with Restoration Housing said she was pleased to finally see the project come together. She hopes the reopening of Villa Heights will inspire the revival of a new defunct neighborhood association.

Tenants include Kingdom Life Ministries, Cultural Arts for Excellence, LEAP for Local Food and The Humble Hustle.

The lead pastor for Kingdom Life Ministries, Kathy O'Keeffe, said she plans to begin hosting recreational groups, classes and events for local seniors including things like chair yoga, technology classes and dancing.

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