Local businessman David Rao has bought the former Salvation Army building at 245 E. Washington St. and is planning to renovate it for business tenants.
“I’m sure that people are interested in getting jobs and retail opportunities in that area,” Rao said.
Renovations slated for the property include redoing the facade.
“I liked the idea of the location and revitalizing that area,” Rao said.
The structure is the largest vacant industrial building in the city and is unique in its proximity to a residential neighborhood, according to Brian Shull, the economic development director for the city.
“We’re very excited to see a local owner of that building and working with them to try and find tenants for it,” Shull said.
Rao, with his company Jocacila LLC, finalized the purchase with the Salvation Army on March 9 for $612,500, according to documents from the Rockingham County real estate system.
He said he also bought an adjacent lot, which he will gravel over to provide more parking for the building. Rao said he is looking for tenants who needed space from 3,000 square feet to 29,000 square feet.
Rao said he had “no plans” to rezone the entire property as it was once a Salvation Army thrift store, a retail use though the property is zoned for manufacturing. Instead, special-use permits may be pursued to allow non-manufacturing tenants, according to Rao.
“If a company came in and had retail kind of vibe, I think City Council would be agreeable to that,” he said.
Rao said he would be interested in working with city staff, council and prospective tenants to make sure something was worked out.
City Councilman Chris Jones said it was “extremely important” for businesses and nonprofits to continue developing the northern parts of the city.
“I’m excited to hear [Rao’s] presentation in pursuit of a special-use permit or whatever he may need from the city of Harrisonburg to bring growth and prosperity to the north and northeast neighborhood,” Jones said .
The Salvation Army bought the property in 2001 and operated a thrift store from the front part of the building until July 2018, according to a text message from Capt. John Blevins.