WINCHESTER — City Council signed off on a tax-incentive package that is expected to clear the way for redevelopment of the former Winchester Towers property.
The incentives approved Tuesday night will provide the project’s developer with up to $3.1 million in tax breaks for up to 10 years.
Lynx Ventures Inc. of Richmond is proposing the construction of a multi-use complex called Cameron Square that would include an estimated 165 one- and two-bedroom apartments in two separate buildings, 8,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space, and a parking deck with up to 180 spaces for tenants and downtown visitors.
The total estimated cost to buy the properties and construct the complex is $35.5 million.
Lynx plans to purchase the Towers site at 200-214 N. Cameron St. from the Winchester Economic Development Authority, as well as parcels owned by Glaize Properties Inc. at 220, 224, 302, 324 and 326 North Cameron Street and 101 and 110 East Fairfax Lane. The Towers site is vacant, but the Glaize-owned buildings are still standing. Most of the Glaize structures are empty, but two have been renovated and are occupied by Winchester Brew Works and NextHome Realty Select.
According to Lynx’s proposal, the previously renovated Glaize buildings would be incorporated into the new Cameron Square project, and the vacant buildings at the corner of Cameron and Baker streets would be converted into a four-story apartment building. The project’s parking deck would be located between the four-story apartment building and a five-story mixed-use structure proposed for the parcel where Winchester Towers stood before being demolished three years ago.
Since the project is proposed for Winchester’s downtown Enterprise Zone and Historic District, Lynx already qualifies for construction incentives up to $2.4 million. The council-approved tax breaks raise that amount to as high as $3.1 million.
Lynx sought the extra incentives to offset the cost of building the parking deck, which, depending on the number of spaces, could exceed $5 million. A facility with 167 parking spaces — the minimum amount acceptable to City Council — would qualify for $2.9 million in tax breaks, while building 180 spaces would raise the incentives to $3.1 million.
Any annual taxes Lynx pays to the city above the $11,609 paid by the current property owners will be reimbursed to the company for 10 years or until the total incentive amount is rebated, whichever comes first. Developers estimate the multi-use complex will generate a projected $693,476 in real estate, meals, and lodging taxes per year.
Winchester would not have to dip into its coffers to cover the incentive because the tax money would be paid each year by Lynx and then rebated by the city.
In exchange for the tax break, Lynx would allow the public to use its parking deck and has agreed to charge rates that will not undercut the fees of 50 cents and $1 per hour assessed by the Winchester Parking Authority at its four downtown garages. Additionally, the developer has pledged to spend at least $15 million on the redevelopment project.
No start date for the project has been determined, but city documents indicate the first tax refund will be paid to Lynx in 2025, after Cameron Square is open for business.
With only six members in attendance Tuesday night — Mayor David Smith and councilors Kim Herbstritt, John Willingham, Evan Clark, Bill Wiley and Judy McKiernan — council voted unanimously, with one abstention, to approve the incentive package. Wiley abstained because his employer, The Shockey Cos. of Frederick County, could be involved in the construction of Cameron Square, and councilors John Hill, Les Veach and Corey Sullivan were absent.
If Lynx follows through with its purchase of the redevelopment site, Winchester Development Services Director Shawn Hershberger said it will have to work with the Board of Architectural Review to develop a design that conforms to Historic District guidelines. It is also anticipated that Lynx will need to request a conditional-use permit from council in order to build the proposed 165 apartments.