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Developer: Job could be done by July
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Above, Mayor Kim Adkins presents the key to the Henry Hotel to Waukeshaw Development Inc. President Dave McCormack as Martinsville City Council members Danny Turner and Mark Stroud (right) look on. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

The long-awaited revitalization of the former Henry Hotel will start in the next two weeks, according to developer Dave McCormack.

Martinsville Mayor Kim Adkins presented the building’s keys to McCormack, president of Waukeshaw Development Inc., during a ceremony Tuesday that attracted about 50 people to the historic structure uptown.

Waukeshaw, based in Petersburg, will spend about $3.2 million to turn the four-story building at the intersection of East Church and Broad streets into about 25 apartments and four commercial units, McCormack said.

He expects to finish the revitalization by next July, he said.

For more than 90 years, the building has been “a prominent feature on the Martinsville landscape,” said City Manager Leon Towarnicki.

Built in 1921, it originally was an upscale hotel, recalled Assistant City Manager/Community Development Director Wayne Knox.

However, as it went through multiple ownership changes and people sought different types of lodging and living arrangements, the building evolved into subsidized housing in recent years, according to Knox and Towarnicki.

The city bought the structure during a public auction five years ago for $425,000, using $95,000 of its own funds. The Harvest Foundation provided a loan to cover the remainder of the cost. Harvest has since forgiven the loan.

Last summer, Martinsville City Council sold the building to Waukeshaw — which has done similar revitalization projects statewide — for $1.

The city received a $600,000 grant from the state Industrial Revitalization Fund for Waukeshaw Development to use for the project. Virginia Community Capital, which helps finance community development efforts, is financing the rest, McCormack has said.

It took five years to get the project. Two previous attempts to get an industrial revitalization grant failed because the city had not yet received a firm commitment from a developer at those times.

“The third time was a charm,” said Susan McCulloch, the city’s community planner.

Waukeshaw plans to maintain ownership of the building after it completes the revitalization. McCormack said his firm will hire a local manager to lease the apartments — mostly one-bedroom units — and commercial spaces.

An insurance firm that now occupies part of the building’s ground floor will remain there, and Waukeshaw will spruce up the unit, McCormack said.

He hopes to attract a restaurant or bakery to space in the building that until recently was occupied by a restaurant, he added.

During the ceremony, McCormack said Waukeshaw expects to lease spaces for “market rates.” Asked afterward to elaborate, he said perhaps that would be $700 a month for a one-bedroom apartment.

That is what some apartments are renting for locally, he said, and “I think there will be a demand” for the ones that Waukeshaw develops.

Each apartment will be “something that is pretty high end,” he said.

He expects the apartments will appeal to various people, from New College Institute (NCI) students to professionals, retirees and newcomers, he added.

When asked whether she thinks such costly apartments will be in demand, Adkins said, “I don’t know. I have to rely on his (McCormack’s) research and expertise.”

“There’s always a risk that any developer faces,” she said, but she believes the apartments will appeal to young professionals in particular.

City officials and local economic developers have said they think the project will spur other revitalization efforts in the central business district.

With the recent construction of NCI’s new building on the Baldwin Block and other ongoing projects nearby, Towarnicki said during the ceremony that this is “one of the most exciting times” uptown that he can recently remember.

As more development attracts more people to live and work uptown, the district will attract more businesses, Adkins predicted.


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