By Brandon Martin
The City of Martinsville has taken ownership of the BB&T building on 1 Ellsworth Street, with plans to redevelop the property for mixed commercial and residential usage.
In addition, City Manager Leon Towarnicki said that the city plans on using space in the building for municipal offices. The current building that the city uses would then be turned over to the courts and public safety.
The city purchased the property for $25,000 and will sell the property, on competition of the redevelopment project, to CA Hairston Company, LLC., for the same price.
“This is a project that we have been working on for two years now. The city leases roof top space at the BB&T building for some radio equipment that operates one of our systems. We received a call that the contract could not be renewed,” Towarnicki said.
After it was discovered that BB&T would be merging with SunTrust and building a new property adjacent to the old building, there was discussion of potentially demolishing the building.
“We inquired if BB&T would be interested in giving the building to the city in exchange for not having to demolish the building,” Towarnicki said.
A letter of intent was executed in November for the building and the city proceeded to advertise a request for proposal for the property. The city always intended to use the building for mixed-use purposes and finally received a proposal “that fit that to a ‘T,’” according to Towarnicki.
“It is our intent to apply for an Industrial Revitalization Grant through the Department of Housing and Community Development,” Towarnicki added.
Chris Hairston and Martinsville native Shawn Moore, from CA Hairston Company, LLC, were selected to head the project.
“Shawn and I are both very excited to be in the City of Martinsville and contemplating redevelopment projects,” Hairston said. The BB&T building “has great ground floor frontage. It allows for commercial space as well as a high-rise tower that would be well suited for loft-style apartments.”
Hairston said their proposal calls for developing 20,000 feet of commercial space on the ground floor, with some space being taken up by the city for offices. Between 50 and 70 workforce housing and market rate apartments also would be constructed inside of the building. There would be surface-level parking for the structure as well.
“It would be about a 12-month project,” Hairston said. “It would begin sometime at the end of the first quarter, beginning of the second quarter next year if the IRF grant is awarded, negotiated and closed on. We’ve already started conceptual drawings for the project in order to get a layout of how many apartments we can get on those upper floors.”
Hairston said he believes some of the highlights of the proposal will lead to a successful project, including open floor plans, good ceiling height and a window bay for individual apartments.
City Attorney Eric Monday said that the building lies within the Enterprise Zone and noted that historical tax credits could be used for the project.
After completion of the project and taking ownership of the property, Hairston said the plan is to “give back to the city ‘x’ number of square feet in exchange for a majority of the proceeds from the IRF grant so the city would take that space for a 10 or 20-year term without having to pay any rent.”
Council members adopted a resolution to begin the process of applying for a grant through the Department of Housing and Community Development.
The council then recessed to convene as the Housing Authority, to accept the transfer of title from BB&T and authorize the city to continue working with the developers for the duration of the project. After the Housing Authority recessed, city council reconvened to continue their July 28 meeting.
In other matters presented, the council:
*Conducted a public hearing on the city’s intent to finance up to $2,500,000 principal amount of water and sewer revenue bonds related to the financing of the reservoir spillway repair project and approved the financing ordinance on second reading.
*Conducted a joint public hearing with the Planning Commission on a request from Wayne Draper for a Special Use Permit at 208 Fayette Street to allow conversion of an upstairs auditorium space into three 2-bedroom apartment units.
*Approved a Memorandum of Understanding with the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce’s Partnership for Economic Growth (CPEG) for management services of the West
Piedmont Business Development Center Incubator, located at 22 East Church Street.
*Approved a Memorandum of Understanding with the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce’s Partnership for Economic Growth (CPEG) for services related to efforts involving small business development in the City of Martinsville for FY 21.
*Adopted a resolution authorizing the filing of an application for funding of certain transportation projects through the Virginia Smart Scale Funding process. The projects are Fayette Street Corridor Improvements – implement measures to improve pedestrian safety
and access in and around Albert Harris Elementary School; Fayette Street Corridor Improvements – implement measures to improve pedestrian safety and access from Ailcie Street to Pine Hall Road; and Market Street Corridor Improvements – implement measures to improve pedestrian safety at the intersection of Market and Moss Streets.