VOL. 113 | NO. 237 | Thursday, December 16, 1999
South Main Historic District gets booster shot
South Main Historic District gets booster shot
By KATHLEEN BURT
The Daily News
Before long, those traveling down South Main Street wont recognize it.
The abandoned buildings and dilapidated facades lining the street are in the midst of a transformation, as a new generation of developers has collectively grasped the vision to revitalize this once-neglected section of Downtown.
This week, three properties in the South Main Historic District received the financing needed to give development in the area a booster shot.
Projects at 505 S. Main St., 99 W. Vance Ave. and at the corner of South Main and Vance received payment-in-lieu-of-tax abatements from the Center City Revenue Finance Corp.
The project at Main and Vance, called Vance Station, has the biggest price tag of the three. The $1.2 million project received a 10-year PILOT this week and was considered for a development loan from the Center City Development Corp. as well.
The project has been in the works for several years, but infrastructure difficulties have kept it from moving forward, said Vance Station developer Stephen Turgeon, who represented the project in the CCRFC meeting.
Now that the project is allowed to move forward, Vance Stations developers plan to build six townhouses on the property. Each co-op will have its own parking, Turgeon said.
The idea of homeownership Downtown is one catching on with developments such as South Bluffs and Harbor Town. Homeowners have a stake in the success of the area and are more committed to bringing about that success.
But whether the project results in owners or tenants, bringing people Downtown spells success for projects such as Beale Street and Peabody Place.
The renovation of the Ambassador Hotel at 99 W. Vance is an $845,000 project that will convert a vacant hotel between Main and Front streets into 18 apartments. Ambassador Commons LLC is seeking to transform the 18,000-square-foot building in one-bedroom apartments, which will be leased at a variety of rates.
The project received a 10-year PILOT and is under consideration for a development loan.
A building to the east of the Ambassador that was once the hotels twin before it was destroyed by fire will be razed, and the lot initially will be used for parking.
The developers long-range plans include rebuilding the twin in a manner compatible with the refurbished Ambassador.
"This is a wonderful project to transform a building that has long laid vacant," said Michael Stevens, vice president of development for the Center City Commission.
The third project is one that represents how the area got where it is now.
Phillip and Terry Woodard plan to renovate a commercial structure at 505 S. Main into five apartments and 1,300 square feet of commercial space. The almost $350,000 project was granted a 13-year PILOT. A development loan is not being sought for the project.
All three renovation projects will be reviewed at the Jan. 5 Design Review Board meeting.
"All of these projects are residential projects. People who have owned places to live and even a few renters have been in that area for a long time. Its established as a neighborhood and its been growing gradually over the past eight to 10 years as a neighborhood," said John Lawrence, director of planning for the Center City Commission.
"The easier projects are the projects people have been doing. What youre seeing now are the more difficult projects that are starting to happen. The projects that are a little bit bigger than what people wanted to take a risk on three years ago arent quite as much of a risk now. Now, you can get higher rents; now youve seen that all these other people are successful and so, it doesnt appear to be as much of a risk to these developers and property owners as what it wouldve been three years ago. Youve got somewhat of an established market."
The smaller projects proved the market, which is translating into developers tackling larger, more difficult ones.
"Its uniquely located right in the middle of a lot of new activity, Lawrence said. ``Its a nice place to be and its a nice growing neighborhood."
Although growth and redevelopment along Main Street is well underway, Lawrence said the continued success of the area hinges on development spreading out from Main Street to blocks to the east and west.
"My wish is to see that spread away from Main Street into the warehouses that exist to the west of Main Street and to the vacant land that exists to the east of Main Street so that this becomes a real neighborhood and that Main Street can exist as the spine and the main street of that neighborhood," he said.