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Phoenix drops construction plan on Fayette Street
Neighborhood concerns cited

Thursday, January 24, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

The Phoenix Community Development Corp. no longer plans to construct a mixed-use building on Fayette Street in uptown Martinsville, mostly because of concerns expressed by nearby property owners.

“While we believe that this proposal would have had long term benefits to the area,” Phoenix Executive Director Ray Gibbs wrote to Martinsville City Council, “the current neighborhood concern and short-term disruption was not something that we wanted to subject the area to.”

Phoenix, a nonprofit developer, planned to erect the three-story, roughly 35,000-square-foot building at the site of a city-owned parking lot across from The Sportsman’s Club.

The building was to have contained office space and apartments, with the Martinsville Henry County Coalition for Health and Wellness as the main tenant, officials have said.

Estimates had placed the building’s total development cost at about $5.5 million. Phoenix hoped to get tax credits and loans to cover the cost.

Phoenix decided not to develop the building “after extensive due diligence,” Gibbs wrote in the letter to Interim City Manager Leon Towarnicki. He shared the letter with Martinsville City Council on Tuesday.

In the letter, Phoenix withdrew a request for the city to transfer ownership of the parking lot to the organization. He did not elaborate in the letter.

Gibbs said Wednesday that Phoenix hopes to find another site where it can develop the building in the future.

“We didn’t want to force the building (construction) at a location where people didn’t want it,” he said.

At the Fayette Street location, “there seemed to be multiple obstacles for us to get through” based on neighbors’ concerns about how the building would be positioned, Gibbs said. After Phoenix resolved those differences, the financing costs “didn’t work anymore,” he said.

“One thing led to another, and then another,” he added.

Most concerns from nearby property owners were about parking, based on how the building would be positioned at the front of the site, Gibbs said.

Under plans for the building, many people visiting businesses along Fayette Street would have had to park behind the building and possibly at the bottom of a hill, he said.

Business owners thought their customers “wouldn’t want to walk up the hill ... and a considerable distance” to get to the businesses, Gibbs said.

Phoenix originally perceived that most of the businesses’ customers now park on the street, but business owners said customers mostly park in the parking lot, he said.

On nights and weekends when The Sportsman’s Club holds special activities, there could have been a shortage of parking spaces in the area as a result of people living in the building parking in the lots behind it, Gibbs said.

Phoenix has identified three other potential sites where the building could be constructed in the future, and it is looking for more, according to Gibbs.

He declined to name the sites already identified because Phoenix has not yet talked with all of their owners.

Barbara Jackman, the health and wellness coalition’s executive director, could not be reached Wednesday for comment on Phoenix’s decision.


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