Salisbury town center is optimistic about potential for more residential space – Salisbury Post


SALISBURY – As a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in the mid-1990s, Pete Bogle spent hours wandering around downtown Salisbury, visiting all the restaurants and shops that left him enter.

“What I had to do at the time was, I came to town one day and met as many store owners as I could,” Bogle said. “I asked them if I could go upstairs and see their space, see what was there.”

Bogle, who has since founded The Bogle Firm Architecture, was working on his thesis to become a master of architecture. The aim of his studies was to examine the possibilities of residential living in the upper floors of downtown buildings.

“I think the Salisbury town center occupancy rate was over 90%, but that only counted the first floor,” Bogle said. “If you had a little store in a corner of your first floor, this whole building was considered occupied, but what I started doing was a study of the estimated total square footage of all the buildings and then how much was completely unused and underused and dead storage. It told a very, very different story.

Although Bogle said his thesis was “unbuildable,” the findings of his work were promising.

“The conclusions of this thesis were that there was a tremendous amount of this potential for life on the top floor,” Bogle said.

In the decades since Bogle wrote his thesis, Salisbury town center has worked to realize its potential. reResidential life in town Salisbury has grown to approximately 116 units. A study produced by the UNC School of Government presented to members of city council last fall found that the downtown area still has the capacity to accommodate 90 to 130 additional multi-family residences.

While that may seem like a significant number of units, Salisbury’s community planning director Hannah Jacobson said the figure was realistic.

“Based on the number of calls I get almost every week from people interested in investing, I think it’s achievable,” Jacobson said.

When Diane and Michael Young moved to the third floor of the Kluttz building overlooking the square in the 1980s, they were part of a small group of people living downtown in addition to those in the Yadkin House apartments. That changed when the Ketner family decided to invest in The Plaza Building.

“When we were living downtown, right after moving into our apartment, a year or two later, the city worked with Ralph and Anne Ketner to make the Plaza project happen, so 20 apartments were infused downtown. of Salisbury, ”Young said.

Putting apartments in the Plaza Building, she said, was a turning point.

“When these apartments were built, the market was proven successful,” Young said. “Once you see that people want to live downtown, maybe the private sector says renovating buildings and putting up apartments would be a good investment. Because the city jumped on the residential model so quickly, I always knew downtown would have a fair amount of housing.

The Plaza building is visible from the balcony of one of the newer residential units in the city center, on the second floor of the new Bankett Station building. Ben Stansell / Salisbury Post

As professionals who have worked on downtown revitalization in a variety of capacities, the Youngs saw the value of downtown living. That’s why they decided to get involved. They now have four units above the Smoke Pit and six in the OO Rufty building across the street.

Developing these units for residential living, Young said, was neither cheap nor easy.

“Next to a restaurant, this is the most expensive type of construction you would undertake in an older building,” Young said.

Bogle, a downtown enthusiast who has worked on a number of multi-purpose projects, said renovating a historic property is often more expensive than just building a building from scratch.

In order to make residential units more profitable and stimulate residential growth in the downtown core, the city created the Downtown Revitalization Incentive Grant in 2014. The grant aims to help small developers transform spaces formerly vacant historic apartments into new apartments up to city standards. building code, which generally requires specific fire extinguishing systems.

“He’s offering over $ 150,000. Some people have been awarded so much over the years for projects requiring certain standards, ”said Jacobson. “It’s really important for the gap financing, in particular for projects like the rehabilitation of the historic city center, which are always more delicate and therefore more risky. This is a big part of the fundraising layer cake for many small developers.

The municipal grant program has been a tool used more frequently by downtown developers. In fact, with so many nominations, Jacobson said the structure of the grant award is likely to change.

“A few years ago that changed and the grants suddenly became competitive,” Jacobson said. “We had several projects which were very interesting projects, but we had a limited amount of money. The amount of the grant requested far exceeded the amount we had budgeted for. We know we’re going to have to revise the program.

Having an influx of applicants seeking funding, said Jacobson, is a wonderful problem to have.

“My ultimate goal is for the downtown area and for the grant program itself is to make the grant program obsolete,” Jacobson said. “That is to say that we arrive downtown at a place where the private market is sufficiently incentive, where we do not need to provide incentives, where development makes sense because it is. what the private market tells them to do. “

In addition to grants offered by the city, developers also make use of historic rehabilitation tax credits provided at the state and federal levels, which may include a 20% credit for qualifying rehabilitation of historic income-generating properties.

The sun is shining in the living room of one of the newly refurbished second floor apartments of the Barnhardt Jewelers building in Salisbury town center. Photo submitted.

The two most recent residential units developed downtown are above the refurbished Barnhardt Jewelers store, but other projects are currently underway.

Five more units located on the second floor of the new Bankett Station 201 E. Innes St building will soon come on the market. The building, which will house Healthcare Management Consults on the first floor, was designed by the Bogle company. Bogle is also involved in a project to transform the second and third floors of the Bell Block Building into eight high-end apartments. The project was a dream come true for Bogle, who put a photo of the Bell Block Building on his 1997 thesis.

“It’s just an opportunity in the market,” Bogle said. “As an architect, I cannot push the market. I just have to answer them and then guide the clients in the best possible way. Being here at the right time is a gift.

Two groups are currently vying to develop ownership of the Empire Hotel, which could include several dozen residential units and alone bring the downtown area closer to the residential capacity proposed in the UNC School of Government study.

Even as developers continue to add residential living, there are still barriers facing multi-family units downtown. Perhaps most important is parking – a frequent topic of conversation, especially after Bell Tower Green Park’s development began, eliminating large parking lots.

David Post, a city council member, lawyer and owner of a strip of buildings in the first block of South Main Street, said the lack of parking had already discouraged development.

“Parking is a problem,” Post said. “We have had businesses that didn’t come downtown and didn’t make major investments due to the lack of parking.”

Parking is one of the many reasons why the post office did not transform the upstairs space of the Oestreicher building into an apartment.

Bogle said many developers he has worked with on downtown residential properties have looked into securing guaranteed parking. But Diane and Michael Young are an exception. Both owners practically ignored guaranteed parking for their residences and managed to do so.

“We’ve been renting downtown apartments for over 20 years,” Young said. “I think that by showing our apartments, we only lost one tenant that I remember, because he could not guarantee them a parking space right next to the building.”

Jacobson said parking will eventually need to be resolved for residential development and other economic development to continue downtown.

“I think about parking a lot and especially the tall buildings downtown,” Jacobson said. “To really unleash their potential, there’s going to be some talk about off-street parking and there’s been a lot of talk about off-street parking. Whether or not it is in a surface area or on a terrace somewhere, we are still talking about it. “

A view of one of the one bedroom units on the second floor of the new Bankett Station building. There are three two bedroom units and two one bedroom units in the building. Ben Stansell / Salsibury Post

Parking is one of the factors that could affect downtown residential growth, but Jacobson said there were a few others as well. The development of Bell Tower Green, the completion of the city’s Downtown Main Street Plan, and increased passenger rail capacity along the Amtrak line to Charlotte could all be “catalytic” factors, he said. she declared.

Regardless of the speed or scale of residential growth downtown, Young said local businesses would benefit greatly.

“As we’ve become more residential downtown since the 1980s, this comes to support the large number and diversity of the dining establishments that we have, the breweries, the theater,” Young said. “It all feeds into each other in terms of what residential downtown life will do for a downtown. “

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