RARA Negotiating For Piovano Building

Developers’ Spotswood Proposals Put On Hold

The Rockbridge Area Relief Association plans to request a meeting with Lexington City Council to discuss a purchase agreement for the Piovano building.

“To date, we’ve not found another suitable building in the area,” RARA Board Chair Valerie Moliterno said in an email to The News-Gazette this week.

The RARA board voted last Thursday to authorize three board members to make the meeting request. Moliterno did not disclose details about the potential cash offer, because the agreement has not been formally drafted.

“RARA will not present a formal cash purchase agreement at this time, but can be prepared to do so quickly if we believe it will be successful,” Moliterno said.

“Council has met in closed session to discuss the boundaries of the negotiations with the city manager,” Mayor Frank Friedman said in an email to The News-Gazette last week. That meeting was held April 15.

“I am still responding to questions from their representative, Jon Ellestad, about the cost benefit analysis we have been using and other matters,” City Manager Jim Halasz said in an email this week.

RARA will need a supermajority vote from City Council in order to purchase the Piovano building. This means five of six Council members will have to approve the purchase agreement.

The Spotswood Drive property became the center of public debate when a multifamily housing development project that proposed demolishing the Piovano building was presented to Council earlier this year.

But RARA has insisted that its offices and services need to stay in the Piovano building, which is home to both RARA and The Community Table. It is also used as the city’s single voting precinct.

“We [RARA] need a space big enough to distribute 300 tons of food per year, either in a drive through or a grocery storelike model,” Moliterno said, “and to allow space for Campus Kitchen to work with us to pack and deliver food in our mobile pantry model.

“It’s also important that we be housed where we can collaborate with, but not duplicate the efforts of other organizations such as Buena Vista’s Bridge to Hope food pantry, so that collectively we better serve the community,” she said.

If RARA successfully purchases the Piovano building, the 2.32 acres of vacant land adjacent to it will still be up for grabs.

Edwin Gaskin, representing Echelon Resources, Inc. and UrbanCore Construction, presented the initial multifamily housing project plan for the property to City Council in January.

“It is my understanding from the city manager that Mr. Gaskin and his team are prepared to make an offer on the remaining open land,” Friedman said.

The mayor also reported that the city has received an updated development offer from MaxMark Homes, as well.

But negotiations with Echelon, MaxMark and other developers have been put on hold.

“Council has chosen to conclude the discussion with RARA and the future of the Piovano building before moving ahead with any development discussions,” Friedman said. “The city remains in no hurry and will take all the time necessary to review ideas and opportunities as they seek the satisfactory solutions for the city’s future.”

If RARA purchases the Piovano building, the nonprofit will have to pay annual property taxes on the lot. The organization already pays personal property taxes on its truck.

“The city has long embraced a policy requiring non-profits who own property pay real estate taxes as well as personal property taxes on vehicles,” Friedman said.

Moliterno said the funds for those tax payments “would come from donors, as would the funds to purchase the building.”

A memo presented by RARA to Council at its meeting April 15 outlined RARA’s revenue and expenditures in 2019.

The document reported that 40 percent of RARA’s revenue that year came from individual donors. The local governments contributed to only 4.4 percent of their revenue.

“While we appreciate Lexington’s support, we do receive considerable financial support from other entities within the greater community,” the memo said.

RARA occupies about 60 percent of the Piovano building and contributes to the parcel’s rent and utility payments, according to RARA’s memo. Those payments are shared with TCT.

On April 15, City Council unanimously approved the renewal of Piovano building lease agreements with RARA and TCT for another 12 months.

The lease agreements will not automatically renew next year, but they hold that City Council does not have the ability to ask the nonprofits to move out early.

“That gives both City Council and RARA and The Community Table some time to consider where we are going in the future, what might evolve in the Piovano building and the Spotswood property,” Halasz said at the meeting.

The News-Gazette

The News-Gazette Corp.
P.O. Box 1153
Lexington, VA 24450
(540) 463-3113

Email Us

Facebook Twitter

Latest articles