BY DENICE THIBODEAU
Danville’s renovation of its River District has seen a lot of successes — new apartments are attracting new residents, new businesses are building clientele and restaurants seem to be staying busy.
A true measure of just how successful efforts have been is reflected by the sale early this month of the former Belk-Leggett property: an out-of-town developer purchased the building and adjoining properties for $900,000.
Corrie Teague, assistant director of the city’s economic development department, said she has met the developer but is unable as yet to discuss the project except to note that first they will assess and stabilize the building.
“There’s nothing to announce as yet,” Teague said. “But they’ve seen the successes of previous projects and the growth over the last few years; they want to be part of it.”
When the city began the River District redevelopment project in 2010, there were about 200 residents in the district. Now there are about 2,000 living in several newly-redeveloped historic buildings.
Private developers and business owners have been fixing up buildings ranging from former tobacco warehouses to former offices, many of which have been turned into mixed-use building that include residential units on upper floors and commercial space at street level.
In recent months, some of the completed projects included Supply Resources moving into 554 Craghead St.; Urban Fitness moving into bigger quarters at 525 Loyal St.’ and River District Artisans opened at 411 Main St.
The Meredith Gravely School of Dance purchased and moved into 415 Main St. — the building abandoned by Web Parts.
The school opened at 411 Main St. but had to find a new space when the ARC of Southside purchased the building so it could relocate the Hatcher Center Outlet Store from Blairs to the River District and renamed it River District Artisans.
Anne Gravely-Moore said the move has been a good one for the school, giving it more studio space on the upper floors with commercial space she has listed for rent on the first floor.
“We’re booming down there and we love it,” Gravely-Moore said.
There are a number of new projects underway, and more that are expected to make announcements in the coming months, Teague said.
Renovations have begun on the former Pace Building — also know as the Wise Hundley building — at 322-328 Main St., which will be converted into 14 one- and two-bedroom apartments on the upper floors with commercial spaces on the street level.
The former jewelry shop at 442 Main St. — which most recently housed Love Wig; that store moved a few doors down the block — has been purchased by SLW & Associates LLC.
Stephen Staats — chief operating officer of SLW, which has also renovated the former Smith Seeds building on Lynn Street — said in October he was working on financing for the project. Teague said Wednesday the project would soon be under construction to convert the building into six residential units and one commercial space.
There is also work underway at 610 Craghead St., where 42 two-bedrooms apartments are being created over a street-level commercial space.
Soon, the former Woolworth building will be available for rent again. Union Church rented the building for about two years, but has outgrown it.
“We really need more space,” the church’s pastor, Adam Cook, said last month.
The church is moving into the former YMCA building on Main Street.
The Woolworth building is privately owned, but Teague said the city is very interested in helping find “the right tenant” for the space.
“Retail would be a very appropriate use of that space,” Teague said.
At a recent River District Design Commission meeting, economic development consultant Linwood Wright said work is expected to begin shortly on the former Dan River Research Building, which will be converted to medical offices.
Teague said she could not confirm when the construction would begin, but “it looks like they’re very close to finalizing their project.”
Financing for large project such as this often take time to finalize, Teague said.
“We’re thankful to be seeing progress now,” Teague said.
Thibodeau reports for the Danville Register & Bee.