BLACKSBURG – The space, located at 414 N. Main Street, and known to many as the former Cook’s Cleaners building, will soon serve the community in a new way.
The Town of Blacksburg purchased the long-vacant property in 2019. Currently, remediation and rehabilitation work is being completed to renovate the 5,000 square foot space into a community retail cooperative and incubator. Building renovations are expected to be complete by the end of 2026.
The building, situated at the intersection between Virginia Tech’s campus and the entrance to downtown is in a prime location to become a central hub for a vibrant retail sector, improving both quality of life and diversity of experiences. The development of a retail cooperative and incubator program will spur growth in the small business retail sector and provide opportunities for civic engagement and activity.
Launching a retail business in a downtown storefront is a capital and knowledge intensive endeavor. Providing physical retail space at a low cost, and an array of business support resources and services, could help ‘level the playing field’ for those interested in starting or growing a retail business.
Retail cooperatives provide space and flexible leases for a number of businesses under one roof, while incubator programs accelerate the development of successful retail businesses by providing low-cost space, exposure to mentors and consultants, technical support services, supportive marketing and events, and access to capital during the early years of the business. Downtown Blacksburg, Inc. (DBI), an association of merchants, property owners, and downtown advocates will be physically located in the building and responsible for managing the retail incubator program. DBI will also organize local events to increase traffic to retail businesses, work with local economic development partners to meet the technical assistance needs of incubator participants, and help participant’s access capital through their relationships with local financial institutions. The Town will provide participants and DBI with subsidized and reduced rent, favorable lease terms, building insurance, and common space.
To help inform the design of the physical space and the incubator program, the Town is seeking feedback from local prospective and existing small business owners regarding their start-up and/or business development needs. This input will help the project steering team ensure the physical space and program are designed to meet the specific needs of the business community. Citizens can also ask questions about the project and share ideas for the types of businesses they would like to see in the space. Share your feedback by visiting https://letstalkblacksburg.org/retail
Submitted by the Town of Blacksburg