Former BV Cinema To Be New Apartments

The former Valley Cinema building in Buena Vista is being converted into apartments. Lou Hamilton, owner of the property, brought his plans before the Buena Vista Planning Commission last week.

A theater building that dates to the late 1960s, the cinema area has a high ceiling, Hamilton explained, that lends itself to the addition of a second floor. Seven or eight two-bedroom apartments are to be developed, he said, with each having between 685 and 700 square feet of floor space.

The lobby area of the former theater, most recently used as temporary quarters for a CornerStone Bank branch office, is being remodeled for use as offices and a showroom for LKH Enterprises, Hamilton’s business. CornerStone’s branch office is now just a short distance away in a modular structure, also in the Ramsey Shopping Center.

Hamilton, who purchased the shopping center from Skip Ramsey, is making various improvements to the property. The building immediately adjacent to the former theater, which formerly held the Amish Cupboard, and, before that, Fisher Auto Parts, is being refurbished and is to be available for lease.

Facade improvements are being made to businesses at the other end of the shopping center, at Snap Fitness and Domino’s Pizza. There, stone piers and wooden columns are being erected for an overhang.

At a public hearing on Hamilton’s request for a conditional use permit to put in first-floor apartments in the former cinema building, Ramsey spoke in favor of Hamilton’s plans. “Lou is making good improvements,” said Ramsey. “He’s making the right move. Housing is needed, especially for students but also for families. This will make downtown more viable. I know he will do a good job.”

Due primarily to the influx of students attending Southern Virginia University, whose enrollment this school year reached an all-time high of over 1,100, Buena Vista has been experiencing a housing shortage.

The Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of the CUP.

Valley Cinema closed about 10 years ago. Ramsey and Charlie Page remodeled the property in the 1980s so that there were two theaters in the space. For most of the approximately 25 years that this business was open, the twin theaters specialized in showing second-run movies at discounted prizes.

The late Wilford Ramsey, Skip’s father, built the original theater just over 50 years ago. Skip Ramsey recalled that the theater, initially a Jerry Lewis Cinema franchise that was owned and operated by the late Jim Jefferies, opened with a showing of the John Wayne western, “True Grit,” in 1969.

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