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City in talks with private developer
For Henry Hotel project
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer
Martinsville officials are trying to quickly reach an agreement with a private developer for the refurbishing of the former Henry Hotel uptown to give the project a better chance of receiving state funding.
The city has learned that for the second time, it has been refused $500,000 in state industrial revitalization funds that it sought for the project.
Wayne Knox, the city’s director of community development, said state officials told him the funds were denied because the project was not yet “shovel ready” — it does not have definite commitments in place.
A third application for the funds will be submitted later this spring for the next grant cycle, Knox said, adding that he expects commitments will be in place by then.
With those commitments, “we’ll be in a better position” to get the money, although the city still will have to compete with other localities, he said.
Under the proposal, the city-owned building at the corner of Broad and East Church streets would continue to have apartments and space for businesses.
City officials intend to present the hotel proposal to Martinsville City Council at some point between April 11, when council members will receive the city’s fiscal 2014 budget proposal, and “before the final budget is approved,” Knox said. In past years, that has occurred in June.
Knox declined to identify the developer interested in pursuing the project, adding “we haven’t nailed down a legally binding contract” with the firm. He said, however, that the developer is “a reputable firm” based out of town.
The developer is trying to arrange financing for the project, and it and the city are trying to figure out how the Phoenix Community Development Corp. will be involved, according to Knox.
Phoenix, a private nonprofit developer involved in uptown revitalization efforts, had been spearheading the former hotel’s redevelopment under former president and CEO Ray Gibbs.
The new president and CEO, Sergio Amato, said Phoenix has not yet been in talks between the city and the other developer. He said, though, he envisions Phoenix now will have “a supporting role” in the project.
Knox said the city has been giving Phoenix time to complete its transition in leadership.
He said other organizations, such as the Martinsville Uptown Revitalization Association, also may be asked to take part in refurbishing the building.
The building contains 31 apartments that have been vacated as well as a restaurant and insurance office that remain open.
Under the developer’s proposal, Knox said, “there probably will be fewer residential units” overall so larger apartments can be developed.
He said that under the proposal, he does not anticipate any more space in the building being developed for businesses.