Weatherly, Seven Sounds projects underway
By Jon Hawley
Monday, January 21, 2019
There are big ugly dumpsters on Water Street, and downtown officials are tickled to see them.
That's because they're a harbinger of some $9 million in private investment in the downtown, according to officials with Elizabeth City Downtown Inc.
ECDI Executive Director Deborah Malenfant discussed that investment during the group's monthly board meeting last week. Interior demolition and cleanup is happening inside several buildings, including the large Weatherly and Hurdle Hardware buildings. Those are the future sites of the Weatherly Lofts and Seven Sounds microbrewery, respectively.
Malenfant provided updates during Thursday’s meeting on the following projects:
Weatherly Lofts will be a 44-unit, upscale apartment complex that will cost around $4.5 million to build, according to ECDI and project developer James Flanigan, of JD Lewis Construction Management.
The project hit a snag last fall. Long-time local attorney John Trimpi had been storing legal files inside the building, under a deal with its former owners. The files were both voluminous and sensitive, and JD Lewis had to work out a deal to remove the files before work inside could start.
On Thursday, Malenfant reported the files were moved on Dec. 31, allowing JD Lewis to start some interior demolition — creating the blank slate needed for renovation. The project has gone through several dumpster loads of materials already, and demolition should be complete in a few weeks.
In an interview in November, Flanigan estimated construction at Weatherly Lofts would take 12-18 months, meaning the condominium complex’s first tenants would move in in early 2020. He's previously described the target clientele as mobile professionals who want a downtown living experience, such as medical professionals or U.S. Coast Guard personnel.
Malenfant reported that JD Lewis also wants to put a mural on the side of its building. Talks about the idea are in their infancy, but the company may recruit a muralist from Richmond, Virginia, where it’s based, to perform the work, she said.
The Seven Sounds microbrewery on Water Street has been in the works for several years. Developer Dean Schaan initially proposed using the Fowler building, but reported in 2017 the project was moving across the street into the former Hurdle Hardware building. The hardware building has a sturdier floor and is much larger, giving the project more options, Schaan said at the time.
According to Schaan, interior demolition of the Hurdle Hardware building has been ongoing for several months, and Seven Sounds is finalizing blueprints for the building. Designing the project is taking time because Seven Sounds is pursuing Historic Tax Credits, and so needs federal approval for its design, Schaan explained.
Seven Sounds’ aim is restore the building to its circa-1940s appearance. A big part of accomplishing that will require demolishing the building's third floor, a more recent addition that compromises the building's historic character.
Schaan said Seven Sounds hasn't gotten final cost estimates or construction bids, but it's estimating the project will cost $2.5 million. When construction does start, Schaan estimated it will take about eight months.
“We'd love to be open before 2019 ends,” he said.
Notably, to help Seven Sounds offset its construction costs, ECDI is applying for a $200,000 grant, Malenfant reported Thursday. The grant would be through the Main Street Solutions Fund under the N.C. Department of Commerce. The grant would award $25,000 per job created, meaning Seven Sounds is proposing to create eight jobs, Malenfant said.
The grant will not require any money from the city or ECDI for a local match. Malenfant said the grant does require a local match, but Seven Sounds' private investment is covering that cost.
When Seven Sounds opens, it will feature both a microbrewery and event space. It will also offer temporary lodging similar to what’s available through Airbnb, the online hospitality service, Schaan said. Customers could stay upstairs in the Hurdle building and get a unique, downtown experience, he said. The units could appeal to both regular tourists and boaters who need a break from the water, he added.
Schaan said work also continues on the Fowler building, which he and his partners are looking to renovate to offer first-floor retail space and second-floor apartments. He's hoping to open the building in late summer or early fall, he said, adding he's had conversations with potential retail tenants, but none have signed a lease yet.
Malenfant also reported that initial cleanup is underway at the former Pure Oil and former Cupcakery buildings, which Williams Holdings, of Haymarket, Va., plans to develop for retail and other potential uses.
All told, Malenfant said the projects from JD Lewis, Seven Sounds and Williams Holdings represent more than $9 million in private investment. It's investment that's also been much-needed on Water Street, a “major gateway” into the downtown, she said.
“It will improve our former blight on Water Street, whereas in the last couple of years when you drove down Water Street, you saw a lot of boarded-up, vacant buildings,” Malenfant said.