Downtown effort adding apartments, retail space
Posted: February 23, 2013
The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — The resurrection of the former home of Valley Lumber has begun.
Crews are working to turn the buildings at 302-304 and 320 N. Cameron St. into six upscale apartments and commercial space.
It is the first phase of an effort to return the better part of two city blocks to vitality.
The project is being developed by city-based Glaize & Bro. Properties. The company owns all of the property bound by Piccadilly, Cameron and Baker streets and the CSX railroad tracks — with the exception of the Winchester Towers building at Cameron and Piccadilly streets and the former train station at Kent and Piccadilly streets.
“We haven’t officially named this yet, but I’m pushing for the Railroad District,” Richard Helm, a managing partner with Glaize & Bro., said Friday. “Because if you rent an apartment in the Railroad District, you can’t complain about the trains.”
The redevelopment became possible in October, when the City Council voted unanimously to rezone the 1.48 acres on the 300 block of North Cameron to Central Business zoning from Commercial Industrial.
Historic tax credits are being used for the first phase, which Helm said has a budget of about $750,000. Saunders Building & Construction of Winchester, whose owner Lawton Saunders has completed multiple renovations using the credits, is the contractor.
Saunders said that based on his research, he thinks the building at Cameron Street and Fairfax Lane is the oldest being renovated as part of this phase, having been built between 1885 and 1890. The front part of the building apparently was once a grocery store.
While the features of the development remain unknown, the first phase is taking shape. Drywall should be in place soon for the second-floor apartments, and the ground-level commercial space is progressing.
Helm said he expects the space to be ready for occupancy in about four months, and plans to start marketing it in about two months. Apartment rents should be in the $1,000-a-month range, with the commercial space leasing for $12 to $15 per square foot.
The apartments — two two-bedroom and four one-bedroom units — continue a trend for Old Town buildings. The City Council has decided it wants to increase residency in the downtown area, and its goal of having 25 new residential units in the neighorhood within about 18 months will be exceeded with the Glaize project and three others.
Work on the buildings was delayed while a former lessee went through bankruptcy, Helm said, but that proved fortuitous. The recent demand for upscale residential space downtown led to an increase in the number of apartments planned.
As Saunders has done before, the Glaize apartments will be fully furnished and the rent will include utilities and a parking space.
“The intent is to offer them furnished and all-inclusive,” Helm said, “so you pay one check a month for all your living expenses. Lawton’s are packed, and there are other properties of a similar nature and they have very good occupancy.”
The first phase’s signature space should be the apartment fronting the street at 304 N. Cameron.
Helm said the second floor was added to that building at some point, and it covered an old Wrigley’s Spearmint chewing-gum ad painted on the bricks on 302 N. Cameron’s north side. Much of the image is in good shape, so it will be retouched and left as part of the apartment’s south wall.
Efforts also are being made to keep high ceilings and original exposed wooden rafters where possible, Helm said. Some brick walls had to be covered to allow the installation of insulation.
The ground floors, which cover more than 9,000 square feet, have been divided into three spaces ranging in size from about 2,300 square feet to about 4,500 square feet. The space at 320 N. Cameron has no second floor, so it will be used as a restaurant.
Helm said the commercial space has three key factors in its favor — it is downtown, long-term parking is available nearby and onsite parking will be available.
“There’s a lot of activity and a lot of retail space available,” he said, “but not much of it is downtown with independent parking.”
A courtyard will be built behind the buildings, and long-term plans call for creating a project oriented toward the space behind the buildings instead of the street.
Saunders said he thinks Glaize & Bro. Properties has a good plan for the building.
“So far, there’s still demand for the downtown [apartments],” he said. “I could probably rent them by the end of next week if I had them.”
The next renovation on the site will be Valley Lumber’s former shipping office at 110 E. Fairfax. Helm said a variance will be sought to allow first-floor residential use in the small building, and if that is approved, it likely will be redeveloped as a single two-floor, 1,100-square-foot apartment.
Plans for the remaining buildings and space on the two blocks have not been determined. Helm said the owners decided to gauge market demand after the first phase is complete before proceeding with redevelopment efforts.
Site plans show future new residential development between the former shipping office and the railroad tracks.
— Contact Vic Bradshaw at email@example.com