Macado restaurant chain owner Richard Macher plans to convert the former Roanoke Times press building into a tower of glass-fronted apartments at a cost of $10 million to $15 million.
Macher said he expects to complete the purchase of the building from BH Media Group within weeks and begin renovations this summer.
“Excited as can be. Hard work. It won’t be cheap,” Macher said.
Macher did not disclose the planned purchase price with BH Media, owner of the Roanoke Times from 2013 to March 2020, when it sold the paper but not the buildings to Lee Enterprises. BH Media put the press building on the market 13 months ago for $6.07 million. It is on the southeast corner of Second Street and Salem Avenue.
Macher, 67, built Macado’s from a single downtown address to 19 locations in and near the Interstate 81 corridor today, all “going well,” he said. But he started handing over the keys to his son, freeing up his time for the project, he said.
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“My second passion is real estate and all that cool design stuff,” he said. “I believe the development of this property will help the Roanoke area move in a positive direction, making downtown even more exciting than it already is.”
Macher has previous experience in real estate as 80% of his restaurants operate in buildings he owns and he has renovated old homes, he said.
Macher said he has a partner who is not involved in the active management of the project. Their vision is to build 70 studios and one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments for individuals and families looking for views and amenities, like an outdoor pool, he said. There will be five floors, but Macher added that the plan is not set in stone.
“We’re obviously open to all kinds of great ideas that come up,” he said. “I would open a brewery there if anyone wanted to, but the current plan is the coolest apartments in Roanoke.” Saying he wanted to hear feedback, he accepted the publication from his email address, [email protected]
A large number of developers have successfully built and leased downtown housing projects over the past 25 years. Downtown Roanoke Inc. says the area has about 2,500 homes. Craft beer took off in Roanoke about seven or eight years ago and may have room to grow.
Macher described the press building, which has been inactive since August 2017, as “magnificent”, and he hopes to take advantage of its north-facing glazed wall. Residents of his future apartments will enjoy dazzling views and relax under poolside cabanas adjacent to a “vibey” lobby, said the restaurateur, who decorates his restaurants with antiques, cartoons and local nostalgia.
But first comes some heavy work.
Crews will dismantle and remove the newspaper press for recycling, along with the “press table,” a concrete slab on pedestals, where the press sits. The press, a Heidelberg Mainstream 80 commissioned in 2003, is “obsolete”, Macher said. “Nobody wants it, even a museum.”
Hundreds of thousands of dollars in extra spending will be needed because ‘we have to take out the Hindenburg – or the Heidelberg,’ he said, mistaking the name of the press for the German airship that caught fire and crashed in New Jersey in 1937, killing 36.
The Roanoke Times stopped using the press due to what officials described as “a litany of lingering issues” in 2017 and moved the newspaper’s printing to Lynchburg.
BH Media previously sold the former Roanoke Times office building to the City of Roanoke for use by the City of Roanoke Public Schools. The building at 201 Campbell Avenue, which has housed the newspaper’s offices since 1914, became city property in January. The newspaper’s office moves to rented space in the nearby Commonwealth Building.