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Henry Hotel study determines city apartments are wanted
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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

An updated marketing analysis recommends turning the former Henry Hotel in uptown Martinsville into a modern apartment complex.

The Phoenix Community Development Corp., which is spearheading efforts to redevelop the property, aims for that to happen, said Executive Director Ray Gibbs. He sees a demand for new apartments, especially uptown.

The analysis, recently done by The Danter Co. of Columbus, Ohio, suggests turning the four-story former hotel at the corner of Broad and East Church streets into a 21-unit complex of one- and two-bedroom apartments.

Apartments would range from 452 to 997 square feet and have one or two bathrooms. Each unit also would have a range, refrigerator, clothes washer/dryer, dishwasher, carpeting/tile/hardwood floors, storage space, window coverings and intercom security, according to the analysis.

Based on examinations of similar projects, the analysis suggests monthly rents of $384 to $897. There would be no income restrictions but federal Section 8 rental assistance would not be available, Gibbs said.

Rod Berry of the Martinsville-Henry County Property Managers Association and Nelson Evans, who owns several local apartment complexes, both said they understand the community already has many vacant apartments.

For that reason, “I don’t think there’s a huge demand” for more, Berry said.

If someone builds a nice apartment complex and manages it right, units in the complex will be rented, Evans said.

Still, he said he thinks the Henry would be better suited for a new hotel.

“The market study says that won’t work,” Gibbs said, because “there is not enough overnight travel” in the area. Also, he said, rates higher than those charged at other local hotels and motels would be needed to help pay for the Henry’s renovations.

Gibbs said The Danter Co. is one of the nation’s most respected real estate research firms and he trusts its recommendations.

And, “the market study says there is a market for” more apartments locally, he said.

According to Gibbs, most local apartment complexes were built 30 to 40 years ago and the buildings and furnishings are becoming dated.

“We (at Phoenix) hear from people all the time that they would like to have an apartment with more modern conveniences,” he said.

He added that he knows of people who work locally but live in Greensboro, N.C., because they could not find living quarters to their liking here.

Also, Gibbs said, “we hear from people constantly,” including local residents who work uptown, that they want to live in the central business district.

Uptown Martinsville may not be as vibrant now as downtown Greensboro, but “they want what urban experience we can supply to them,” he said.

If the building is converted, an insurance agency on the first floor of the building would have to move, at least temporarily, he said, indicating there is a possibility that the agency could move back in after renovations are completed.

Because the city owns the building, Gibbs said he thinks Phoenix “doesn’t have the right to talk to them (the agency) yet” to see if it would want to move back in.

The analysis indicates that the apartments could be ready to occupy in 2014. But those involved in efforts to redevelop the Henry must acquire money for the project first.

Gibbs estimated the total cost at $4.6 million. That is to come from various sources, including the state and tax credits, he said.

The city recently submitted an application for $500,000 in state industrial revitalization funds for the project. A past effort to secure such funds failed but Gibbs said he thinks the latest effort will succeed because plans for the hotel are farther along than those of competing projects in other cities.

Overall, he said he is “more confident than I’ve been in a long time” that all funding needed to redevelop the Henry will be secured, he said. That is because with the updated marketing study done, financing sources and “folks wanting to see this project done have more faith in it” now, he added.


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