Downtown lofts get nod

Published 9:02 pm Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Planning Commission on Tuesday green-lighted a project that would put 68 loft apartments in empty retail buildings in downtown Suffolk.

Monument Construction plans to renovate most of the south side of the 100 block of West Washington Street. The project piggybacks on a smaller but similar project the company did on the corner of Main and West Washington.

The decision came a month after the commission tabled the request to allow the company to work out more details with government agencies that oversee alterations to historic structures.


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One person opposed to the project spoke during the public hearing. Clifton Winborne said he believes downtown needs more commercial space and parking area, not residences.

“Putting residences up there doesn’t increase the businesses,” Winborne said. “If the city would entertain the idea to have a parking area downtown, the businesses would thrive.”

Tom Dickey, co-owner of Monument Construction, said in response that city parking studies have shown about 55 to 60 parking spaces available in the adjacent, public Cherry Street parking lot most of the time.

The ground floor of the buildings will include about 6,000 square feet of commercial space, although some residential space would also be on the first floor.

After the meeting, Dickey said some residents of the lofts might not have vehicles, and many likely would work in other cities, which would free up some spots in the lot during the day.

Commissioner Thomas Savage said many downtown buildings were initially designed to have retail on the first floor and housing upstairs, anyway.

The conditional use permit was approved 5-0 and will be considered by City Council on July 17.

Also at the meeting, the commission delayed a decision on a proposed Habitat for Humanity project to give the group more time to talk with surrounding landowners.

The organization plans about 11 homes on the land just north of the White Marsh Plaza shopping center, near the intersection of White Marsh Road and Lake Kennedy Drive.

Owners of an adjacent property, Larry and Marjorie Cole, spoke during the public hearing to express concerns about their driveway, half of which could be taken away by the project.

Commissioner William Goodman, who lives nearby, said the Coles were not the only ones concerned about the project. He suggested planners delay a decision to give the group and the neighborhood more time to hash out concerns.

That motion also passed 5-0. The project will be reconsidered in the Planning Commission meeting Aug. 20.