PETERSBURG, VA (WWBT) - Saturday morning's fire at the old Brown & Williamson Tobacco building in Petersburg marks an obvious setback for a major revitalization project. The empty factory, closed since 1985, was being converted into loft apartments. Developers say the project will move forward. They just don't know right now, how long that's going to take.
Nearly 100 years after it was first built, the factory, was about to be re-born.
"They're [the old factories] not good for new companies for manufacturing any longer, so they're great for adaptive re-use," said Joanne Williams, a Petersburg spokesperson.
150 upscale loft apartments were under construction, set to open in March of next year. Developers also had plans for retail and commercial space.
"Certainly developers would not come here without studies that would indicate there is a demand," Williams said, in reference to growth at Ft. Lee, and in surrounding localities.
The project is not unlike others in Old Towne Petersburg, where in many spots factories from another era are being given new life either as rental units, or small shops.
"Really trying to bring a lot of life to this side of Old Towne," said Christina Dolfi, manager of Demolition Coffee, a former abandoned building, where business is "brewing".
"The small town feel is something that people enjoy. And I feel like once they come here and they see there's something really great happening here, then they're more motivated to come and live," Dolfi said.
While redevelopment improves the quality of life, it also benefits the tax base. The Brown & Williamson effort may no longer be on schedule, but developers say it's not about to stop.
"The owners are sad about the setback. But as of Saturday the owners were, you know, 'Hey we're gonna move forward, we're gonna get this repaired, and pick right back up where we left off,'" Williams said.
Construction contractor KBS of Richmond has overseen many re-development efforts including several on-or-near Richmond's Tobacco Row. As for the Petersburg project, a specific timetable for its completion was not immediately known.