Years in the making, a bid to revitalize Toano made its debut and took a step toward realization in 2018.
Spearheaded by Toano natives Jack and Jeff Wray, the revitalization project seeks to bring back some of the hustle and bustle Toano had at the turn of the 20th century, when the town had a school, factories and hotels. A project to widen Route 60, which is the town’s main street, demolished shops and businesses that were the heart of the town in the 1960s, ushering in a decline.
To turn back the clock, Jack Wray wants to establish a small mixed-use development called Toano Station to give Toano a commercial and social hub. Apartments would sit on top of commercial space that could be home to businesses such as craft breweries, small grocery stores and cafes. He also wants to see a historic district established in town, which would encourage land owners to make improvements to their properties with tax credits.
The Wrays have been buying properties in Toano for more than a decade, starting with their grandparents’ home in 2003. The Wrays went public with the project late last summer.
In November, the project got a good review from residents during a public hearing for the proposal to establish the Toano Commercial Historic District. The Board of Historic Resources and the State Review Board both voted unanimously to approve the nomination during a joint meeting in Richmond on Dec. 13. The application to establish the district now goes to the National Park Service, which is expected to give its approval early next year.
The designation would make tax credits available to property owners within the district — which consists of 11 properties -- to improve their properties so long as those improvements meet historic guidelines.
“We’ve worked so hard to make this happen,” Wray said after the vote on Dec. 13. “What that’s going to bring to Toano has yet to be seen but I’m so excited by the possibilities.”
Jack Jacobs, 757-298-6007, firstname.lastname@example.org, @jajacobs_