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Phoenix releases plans for offices
Phoenix Community Development Corp. Executive Director Ray Gibbs (from left), architect Conrad Knight and Noel Boaz, president of Integrative Centers for Science and Medicine (ICSM) in Martinsville, talk Thursday about plans for a new building on Fayette Street in Martinsville. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
Friday, October 19, 2012
By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer
A new three-story building proposed for uptown would contain offices for the Martinsville Henry County Coalition for Health and Wellness and affiliate organizations plus apartments that would rent for an average of $650 a month, its developer maintains.
Plans for “Fayette Street Square” were released Thursday afternoon by the Phoenix Community Development Corp., a nonprofit developer involved in efforts to revitalize Martinsville’s central business district.
Phoenix aims to pay for the estimated $5 million project through loans and New Market Tax Credits, said Executive Director Ray Gibbs. The federal tax credits are intended to help revitalize communities with a lot of poverty.
Gibbs estimated the building will comprise a total of at least 35,000 square feet on its three floors. The building is proposed to be constructed on the site of a city-owned parking lot along Fayette Street across from The Sportsman’s Club and next to the former supermarket building where a new medical school is planned.
Construction is contingent on financing and the city giving the property to Phoenix, according to Gibbs.
Martinsville City Council on Tuesday is expected to set a public hearing for Nov. 13 before considering whether to convey the property.
Design plans have not yet been developed, so Phoenix officials do not yet know what the building would look like.
During a public information session on Phoenix’s plans for the building, held Thursday under a tent in the parking lot, copies of a sketch labeled “Fayette Street Square” were available for visitors to pick up. The sketches showed a building comprised of brick and stucco with many front windows and doors.
That sketch is not what will be built there, said Phoenix spokesman Robin Campbell. Rather, it was intended to give visitors an indication of what type of building could be constructed there, she said.
Preliminary site plans show 21 angled parking spaces in front of the building. Parking spaces on the opposite side of the street are to remain, said Gibbs.
Parking areas with more than 130 spaces are to be developed behind the building, plans show.
A city council report shows that Phoenix is to lease the parking areas to the city for their continued use as public parking.
A school bus garage on part of the site is to be razed. Travis Clemons, the Martinsville schools’ executive director of administrative services, said the school system does not mind having to find another location for its garage because the new building will be “something that benefits the community.”
Gibbs identified the health and wellness coalition as being the main tenant for the building. He said other prospective tenants have connections to the coalition but he declined to identify them because leases are not signed.
Barbara Jackman, executive director of the coalition, could not be reached Thursday night for comment.
Gibbs said the building is to have four “office tenants” as well as 28 to 30 “luxury apartments,” each with one or two bedrooms and amenities such as stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, central air and heating and washer/dryer hookups. He said rents would average about $650 a month.
He said the apartments would be targeted to young professionals, students and teachers at the medical school and “older people who want to get out of a house,” such as to reduce their living expenses.
Gibbs added that a market study shows a local demand for apartments with such amenities at that price point.
Alexis Lee of Martinsville, who was at Phoenix’s presentation on the project, said the building “sounds nice.”
Virginia Museum of Natural History founder Dr. Noel Boaz, who is developing the medical school, had some concerns.
A driveway is to run between the school and the apartment/office building. Boaz indicated he would like to see more space between the buildings since the medical school’s entrances are going to be on the side of its building.
Boaz said he is “just worried it’s going to be too close quarters for the type of facade we want” at the school’s entrances. He said the entrance area is to include a colonnade to make it look like the front of an academic building.
He said he has been talking with Gibbs for the past few months about plans for the new building and “I’m sure we can work out” differences of opinion on the project.
Gibbs said that while he wants people to be pleased with the building, it may not be possible to completely satisfy “everybody in the neighborhood.”
He hopes to be able to secure financing and tax credits by January. If he is successful, design plans will be developed and construction could start next summer, he said, adding he expects construction would take 10-12 months.