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Washington Square comes alive

Helping cut the ribbon for the Washington Square development on West Washington Street are, from left, Councilman Lue Ward, Economic Development Authority member Harold Faulk, Councilman Mike Duman, City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn, Mayor Linda T. Johnson, Chris Johnson of Monument Construction, Marc Galt of Sensei Development, Councilman Charles Parr and Councilman Roger Fawcett.

Helping cut the ribbon for the Washington Square development on West Washington Street are, from left, Councilman Lue Ward, Economic Development Authority member Harold Faulk, Councilman Mike Duman, City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn, Mayor Linda T. Johnson, Chris Johnson of Monument Construction, Marc Galt of Sensei Development, Councilman Charles Parr and Councilman Roger Fawcett.

A pair of ribbon-cuttings on West Washington Street Thursday afternoon represented a significant milestone in the revitalization of one of the city’s most historic blocks.

First came the official opening of Uncork’d, a new wine shop near the eastern end of the 100 block of West Washington Street. Following quickly on its heels was a toast to the second phase of Monument Construction and Sensei Development’s renovation of old commercial buildings into commercial spaces on the ground floor with loft apartments upstairs.

The second project, which cost about $9.5 million, has been a long time in the making, said Sensei Development’s Marc Galt.

“If you walked in the building before … you could tell construction was going to be very challenging,” Galt said, referring to the neglected condition in which many of the buildings had been left for years.

Galt said leasing activity is outperforming the company’s own projections. Three of the five commercial spaces have signed leases, and build-out is expected to take about two months, he said. Of the 67 residential units, 21 have been leased, and 16 of those tenants already have moved in.

The three signed commercial leases include The Chop Shop barber, which is owned by Rarsan Barnes and is moving from a spot on East Washington Street; a hookah lounge, owned by LaTroy Brinkley of Serendipity salon at the other end of the block and Eurnicka Artis of EA Tax Service; and a makeup artist and massage parlor.

The residential units are leasing for $900 to $1,400 a month, and the commercial spaces are $12 per square foot, Galt said.

Mayor Linda T. Johnson thanked Sensei and Monument for their investment in the block, which also has included a similar but smaller project at the end of the block where Serendipity and Uncork’d are located.

“This block has never looked this good in my lifetime,” Johnson said. “Thank you for your commitment.”

Up the block, Uncork’d is the newest venture of Plaid Turnip owner Ed Beardsley. It sells craft beers and wines from around the world as well as specialty sandwiches, tapas and a rotating cheese board.

It’s in the same space where C3Vino formerly operated.

“I thought it was a great addition to downtown before,” Beardsley said. “I wanted to capitalize on what I think they did right and try to expand on it.”

He said he hopes his shop will help draw people downtown and that they will stay to check out other shops, restaurants and venues.

“You don’t get a lot of people in bad moods when they come in to buy wine,” he said, he adding that the food menu also will be expanding over time.

“I obviously have a great love for this area,” Beardsley said. “It’s a great thing to be part of the whole exciting growth that’s going on down Washington Street.”

Andy Damiani, who owns commercial buildings on the block and lives above one of them, said the new development adds “spark and enthusiasm” to downtown.

“It’s encouraging to a lot of people,” he said. “They did a good job. It’s nice-looking.”