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Hotel plans welcomed
Sunday, July 14, 2013
By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer
Plans to sell and refurbish the former Henry Hotel in uptown Martinsville are being generally well-received by uptown business owners and a developer.
Phoenix Community Development Corp. Executive Director Sergio Amato said he is “very excited” about the project because it will be “a real positive for uptown and the community in general.”
Amato emphasized that it is not who handles a redevelopment project, but that the project gets done, that ultimately is important.
Phoenix, a private organization involved in uptown revitalization efforts, had been spearheading efforts to redevelop the Henry until the city decided to seek other developers’ proposals.
Last week, the city accepted the proposal of Waukeshaw Development Inc. to buy the hotel from the city for $1. Waukeshaw, of Petersburg, plans to spend about $3.4 million to redevelop the building into 24 new apartments as well as four commercial/retail spaces.
After the Henry’s redevelopment moves forward, Phoenix “would be delighted to play a supporting role if Waukeshaw believes we could be helpful,” Amato said.
He could not speculate as to what that role might be, he said, without Waukeshaw and Phoenix talking about it first.
Property owners and people working uptown also are glad the building will be refurbished as part of efforts to rejuvenate uptown.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Fred Martin, whose family owns numerous properties uptown. He said he thinks people will be attracted to the Henry as a place to live because it is a local landmark.
“If we can make uptown attractive,” such as by installing more plantings “and make sure accommodations are not substandard,” people probably will come there to live, said Steve Draper, owner of Draper & Ferrell Clothiers.
Although he said he is “very excited” about Waukeshaw’s plans, he admitted there is no guarantee that the renovation will be successful.
“You hope for the best on this,” Draper said, but “no one has a crystal ball.”
Mervyn King, who owns many uptown buildings, including ones now used by the New College Institute (NCI), said he would have preferred to see a local developer tackle the Henry but Waukeshaw’s plans have “great potential.”
“If they can keep the rent reasonable,” King said, the building should attract students at NCI as well as the College of Henricopolis School of Medicine now being established.
Students at the latter would be more likely, he said, since many of NCI’s students are from the area and commute.
Trina Maxey, manager of Junkbabies antique store, said she would love to see people living and walking the streets of uptown again, like it was in the 1960s when the district was the community’s main commercial center.
“Anything that anybody can do up here to draw people and get them to stop” in stores would be good, Maxey said, adding that she is pleased with Waukeshaw’s plans for the Henry.