Downtown lofts approvedPublished 10:09pm Thursday, July 18, 2013
City Council members on Wednesday unanimously approved a project that will turn vacant retail buildings in the historic downtown into 68 loft apartments, along with about 6,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space.
The project by Monument Construction will take place along the south side of the 100 block of West Washington Street. Formerly owned by now-disgraced developers George Hranowskyj and Eric Menden, who are serving prison terms for their part in a scheme that tanked the Bank of the Commonwealth, some of the buildings have been vacant for many years. In two of them, a pawn shop is preparing to move out and a church moved out a couple months ago.
“This building’s been vacant for a long time, and it’s been a real eyesore,” Tom Dickey, one of the owners of Monument Construction, said during the public hearing. “We think the plan we have in place is going to be a real asset to the city.”
The company did a similar but smaller project with two buildings on the corner of the block, which opened last year.
The lone complaint against the project came from Chris Dove, whose concern is with parking.
“My main concern is there has been no real attempt to increase parking,” Dove said. “I like the idea. It’s just that they’re not addressing the parking issue, and I think that should be part of the equation.”
Dickey said the public Cherry Street lot behind the building has more than 100 spaces, and a city parking study revealed about 55 available spaces most of the time.
“I don’t think this is going to be an issue,” Dickey said. “I’ve never had a problem parking in the lot.”
Planning Director Scott Mills said his staff agrees that the parking is adequate.
“A lot of times in a central business district, you have shared parking,” he said. Most residents leave for work during the day, he explained, giving up their spots for employees and customers of nearby businesses.
“There is ample parking,” Councilman Charles Parr said, noting the lot behind the courthouse is mostly empty at night. “They’re not right at the front door, but then again when you go to Walmart, you’re not parking at the front door either. Maybe we just need to be able to put one foot in front of the other to get to where we need to get.”
“We’ve been trying to revitalize downtown for a long time,” Vice Mayor Charles Brown said. “We’re grateful for a good company like Monument Construction to come, and I know you’re going to do a good job.”