Thursday, March 16, 2017

Riverwalk Trestle Bridge has reopened!

Danville Parks and Recreation announced this morning that the Riverwalk Trestle Bridge has reopened.  Thank you to the construction crews who were able to repair the bridge a day early. Enjoy your day on the Riverwalk!

Photo Credits: River City TV


IDA plans to buy White Mill property in Danville

The Industrial Development Authority plans to buy the White Mill property — including the building — for $3 million.
Danville City Council will hold a first reading on whether to appropriate $1.5 million from its general fund for the IDA to purchase the property during council’s upcoming meeting Tuesday night.
The IDA board voted to purchase the property during its meeting Tuesday.

The purchase agreement calls for a first payment this year and a second $1.5 million to be paid in 2017-18. The IDA would buy eight parcels totaling slightly more than 20 acres, City Manager Ken Larking said Wednesday.
One parcel totals about 18 acres and the remaining pieces are small properties, Larking said.
In addition to the $3 million, $50,000 will pay for due diligence — property analysis — that must be complete by May 15, Larking said. Closing is expected by June 15, he said.
The IDA will cover the cost of due diligence, Larking said.
Officials believe a planned Riverfront Park would help attract businesses and industry to the property. The park would be built on four acres between the White Mill and the King Memorial Bridge across from the YMCA.
“Development potential along the river is of great importance to the city and our economic development office has identified that [control of the site] as a key step toward developing a world-class riverfront development in our city,” Larking said Wednesday.
The IDA and the city see those parcels along the river as critical for future economic growth of the area, said Neal Morris, IDA board chairman.
With the park planned in the area along the King Memorial Bridge, purchase of the White Mill property will give the city and the IDA all the property between the Union Street and MLK bridges, Morris said. “That’s really a nice piece of property through there,” Morris said.
The White Mill building is 650,000 square feet. It was constructed in 1920 and was part of Dan River Inc.
White Mill Development LLC, a subsidiary of Spartanburg, South Carolina-based Gibbs International, bought the property in 2009 and announced it was bringing 400 high-tech jobs to the city.
The total purchase price of the eight parcels was $2.4 million plus closing costs, according to the city of Danville. In addition, Gibbs spent $1.5 million to abate asbestos and lead paint in the White Mill itself and other structures that were eventually demolished. In total, Gibbs spent more than $4 million for the purchase, cleanup, demolition, legal fees and closing costs, according to the city.
The company promised to bring the jobs and $400 million in capital investment to the project over five years, but the plans never materialized.
If the purchase goes through and the city appropriates money for it, city staff will oversee a master plan process for the site. It would include public input on how to redevelop the properties, Larking said.
The city would market the site aggressively to developers for possible development of the White Mill and adjacent property, Larking said.
City officials will seek funding from a variety of sources to pay for the purchase, he said.
“However, until those funding sources are confirmed, it is recommended that general fund balance be used to pay for purchase,” Larking wrote in a council packet letter to council members.
The IDA is tasked with supporting economic development goals and objectives for Danville. The authority buys and develops industrial land and downtown properties, and acts as a conduit for incentives for projects. The IDA has led downtown redevelopment by acting on recommendations from the 2011 River District Development Plan and acquiring and redeveloping projects in the River District.
Larking said people have inquired about the property but there are no solid prospects for the site.
Linwood Wright, consultant for the city’s economic development office, said of the plan to purchase the site, “It is a very positive move for the city and gets control of major property along the river, which is probably one of the greatest assets the city has.”
John Crane reports for the Danville Register & Bee. Contact him at jcrane@registerbee.com or (434) 791-7987.

Riverfront park vision detailed to council

A cascading water wall. Steps and lawn terraces facing the Dan River. An oval lawn large enough to throw a Frisbee, hold a community concert, host a Flag Day event or stage food truck rodeos.

Those are all part of a vision for a Riverfront park proposed by a design firm hired by the city. It would be located on four acres at Memorial Drive and Main Street between the White Mill building and Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bridge.
A designer at DHM Design Inc. in Raleigh, North Carolina, presented the conceptual plan during a Danville City Council special work session Tuesday evening.

Principal Graham Smith and Landscape designer Jeremy Arnett prepared the conceptual plan. Smith presented the plan to council
The plans include “a very engaging public space that includes a splash pad/waterplay area. From there, a cascading water wall leads to steps and lawn terraces that face the Dan River and partially encircle the much larger community lawn area. The oval lawn is large enough to throw a Frisbee, hold a community concert, host the Flag Day event, and stage Food Truck Rodeos.”
The plans also call for highlighting the architecture of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bridge.
Possible lighting of the bridge could extend the park’s effect across the Dan River to attract visitors to the space, according to the plan.

A trail extension cutting across the park’s northern boundary would connect at the parking area and trailhead at Main Street Plaza, according to the plan.
“This trail extension is designed extra wide and of a more unique pavement material in order to act as a promenade that allows casual visitors to overlook the water surface and its activities,” according to the plan.
The promenade — on the side that would face the river — would fall away into a series of concrete steps allowing users to sit close and touch the water, according to plans. The idea is to “pull the river back into the landscape,” Smith said.
A proposed multi-age play place, a kayak/canoe put-in and a small parking area would be at the western end of the park.
The bulk of the site park would be in a floodplain, Smith pointed out to councilmen Tuesday evening.
“Most of the site is a 100-yewar-old floodplain,” he said, adding that it restricts how to develop the site.
“This whole site will flood in a 100-year flood,” he added. “We do want to make sure we create a park that is resilient.”
Councilmen questioned Smith about the design.
Lee Vogler noted that a proposed sand beach area — where visitors could lay out in the sun — was switched out for turf.
“Is that still going to be possible if it’s turf?” Vogler asked Smith.
“We thought turf would hold up better,” Smith responded, adding that there could be a sandy pocket further up the hill.
Councilman Larry Campbell Jr. asked if a skate park area would be feasible.
Space-wise, it could be done, Smith said. However, mixing skaters and small children “might not be the best plan,” Smith added.
Campbell said he wanted the park to be relatable to as many age groups as possible.
Councilman Gary Miller also said he liked the idea of a beach along the river, but had a problem with the lawn area split into several sections.
Vogler pointed out that with a divided lawn area, visitors could partake in a variety of activities instead of having one group taking over the area.
Other features would include an entry plaza and transportation improvements.
The main entry to the plaza would be located at the intersection of Main Street and Memorial Drive, according to the plan.
Brick pavers would visually connect the entrance to the existing brick crosswalks into the site and decorative bollards protect pedestrians from vehicles. From the entry, the visitor would have three options to choose from: small seating nooks and landscaped area to the right; down the steps to the splash pad in the center; or the accessible ramp to a sprayground and playground beyond on the left, according to the plan.
The project also includes separate but paralleling transportation improvement studies which include a road diet along Memorial Drive to account for parallel parking and a downtown trolley bus stop, according to the plan.
The conceptual plan also calls for space for an artistic shelter to provide shade and interest to the park. Either side of the water wall would be the curvilinear turf steps that invite visitors to relax, read a book, or people-watch activity on the lawn.
The lawn and stage would entail a relatively flat lawn area housing the stage at one end. Decorative concrete bands break up the turf to provide contrast and to discourage large-scale active recreation, according to the plan. The stage and shelter would be flush with the turf and its supports can be deconstructed in case of potential flooding in an effort to mitigate floodplain concerns, according to the plan.
Surrounding the lawn would be an asphalt walking loop with landscaped areas to offer a small sense of enclosure, according to the conceptual plan.

Playground and climbing boulders also would be included.
As for the parking area and water access, a small parking area would provide 10 parking spaces, including two accessible spaces as well as a small drop-off area.
“The design relies on nearby parking lots, parking structures, and future projects to account for the increase in parking need,”according to the plan. Adjacent to the parking area would be two bioswales aimed at capturing and treating the first flush of stormwater run-off, according to the plan. Visitors would also be able to access the water for non-motorized watercraft via a winding ramp connected to the parking lot.
An analysis of conditions at the site also found:
» The nearby existing (White Mill) dam plays a major role in the overall park experience by providing both an audio and visual element as well as having significant impact on the water levels of the site;
» Viewsheds into and out of the park are important items to consider given the topography and major entryway into the downtown Danville area;
» The streambank continues to erode due to the lack of riparian vegetation and fluctuating river currents;
» The Riverwalk greenway trailheads at the Martin Luther King Jr. Bridge and there is an existing easement dedicated to its expansion through the park;
» The park plays a role in providing sidewalk connections on its perimeter;
» The recently renovated Main Street Plaza and comfort station provide much needed public facilities and a pedestrian-friendly connection point to the park.
In early 2016, Danville, led by the parks and recreation department, solicited firms for a Riverfront Park plan.
Public workshops were held in the summer and fall presenting conditions at the site and seeking public input on what they wanted in a park.
A short survey was handed out during the summer, as well as a link to a digital version of the questionnaire in order to get public feedback as for three weeks after the event.
DHM received about 275 responses to the survey, including many written responses describing what people wanted for the park.
About 50 people attended the fall workshop held in November, where they chose among two possible park concepts. About 90 participants also completed a survey choosing among the two concepts while including elements from the other concept.
Crane reports for the Danville Register & Bee.
John Crane reports for the Danville Register & Bee. Contact him at jcrane@registerbee.com or (434) 791-7987.


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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Downtown draw: Plans for riverfront park bring excitement to leaders, River District businesses

Dell’Anno’s Pizza Kitchen on Main Street downtown has seen more customers during its lunch rush since Spectrum Medical opened in the River District Tower last week. A new riverfront could bring even more business if it’s built at Main Street and Memorial Drive, said the restaurant’s manager.
“It will be more people coming with kids,” said Dell’Anno’s manager Fabian Martinez. “After they play, they will get hungry.”
In the two weeks since Spectrum relocated to the River District Tower with its more than 85 employees, Dell’Anno’s has seen a 15-20 percent increase in customer volume during lunch, Martinez said.
Regional leaders and at least one business owner also see great potential for a riverfront park.
Sarah Rodden, owner at Lizzy Lou Boutique at Main Street and Memorial Drive, said it would bring more people downtown.
“A lot of people would come to the park who haven’t been here in a long time,” Rodden said. “The more things that are popping up downtown, the more interested people become [in the River District].”
Spectrum employees have brought more business at Lizzy Lou since the facility opened on Feb. 27, Rodden said.
DHM Design, Inc. presented a conceptual plan for the park to Danville City Council during a special work session Tuesday night. The project would cost about $3.8 million, according to the plan’s estimate.
The plans include “a very engaging public space that includes a splash pad/waterplay area. From there, a cascading water wall leads to steps and lawn terraces that face the Dan River and partially encircle the much larger community lawn area. The oval lawn is large enough to throw a Frisbee, hold a community concert, host the Flag Day event, and stage Food Truck Rodeos,” according to the concept.
The plans also call for highlighting the architecture of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bridge. Possible lighting of the bridge could extend the park’s effect across the Dan River to attract visitors to the space, according to the plan.
A trail extension cutting across the park’s northern boundary would connect at the parking area and trailhead at Main Street Plaza, according to the plan.
“This trail extension is designed extra wide and of a more unique pavement material in order to act as a promenade that allows casual visitors to overlook the water surface and its activities,” according to the plan.
A promenade — on the side that would face the river — would fall away into a series of concrete steps allowing users to sit close and touch the water, according to plans. The idea is to “pull the river back into the landscape,” according to a designer.
A proposed multi-age play place, a kayak/canoe put-in and a small parking area would be at the western end of the park.
In a separate conceptual design study, Lyons, Colorado-based S20 Design and Engineering proposed three possible types for a whitewater park at the site.
Those include:
» A river-wide drop structure crossing the entire river and providing three separate chutes forming waves;
» A bypass channel along the west bank of the river and separated from the main flow by a berm. The channel would extend from the historic dam downstream most of the want to the Main Street bridge;
» An out-of-the-river canal extending from a canal to the proposed riverfront park, discharging back into the river just upstream of the Main Street bridge.
“The [riverfront] park and park concept can be a major boost to our River District economy, especially if we can develop some type of whitewater activity, with rafting, tubing or canoeing,” said Danville Mayor John Gilstrap.
The spray pool and lawn-area barriers to keep one group of people from dominating the area are especially appealing, Gilstrap said.
However, parking is a concern since the concept offers only a little more than 10 new parking spaces, he said. An area with a capacity of 500 people — the park’s capacity — would need about 150 parking spaces, he said. But there is parking close by — within two blocks, Gilstrap added.
He supports removal of the nearby Long Mill Dam, which would yield the most advantages and the fewest drawbacks, he said.
Parks and Recreation Director Bill Sgrinia said of the plan, “I like the concept of the park overall. It's well thought out and does take into consideration the public input that was part of the process.”
The promenade that widens part of the riverwalk trail will help engage people with the Dan River, Sgrinia said.
“I was hoping people would be able to interact with the river,” he said.
Sgrinia also likes the way the shelter is angled to take in the backdrop of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bridge.
The park is designed to invite people into the space, he added.
Laurie Moran, president of the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce, said the creation of spaces that attract families will enable the region to “make a significant impact on the quality of life and economy of our region.”
“The proposed riverfront park has the potential to connect business recruitment, retention and tourism,” Moran added. “As we seek to attract employers to this community and as employers seek to attract employees to this region, it is important that we are showcasing our community as a great place to live and work. From the tourism perspective, people who are visiting our area are looking for spaces where they can relax, enjoy and experience the great assets we have to offer. The riverfront park has this possibility.”
Karl Stauber, president and CEO of the Danville Regional Foundation, sees the park as one of the next major steps in the River District as an economic development and tourism draw. However, it’s “also … a way of demonstrating to people here and people elsewhere what excellence looks like and the fact that we can create excellence.”
The new Danville Family YMCA is an example of that excellence, Stauber said.
“The community could have built a much cheaper Y … and it wouldn’t have been nearly the success it’s been,” he said.
Stauber said he is astounded at the number of people visiting the nearby JTI Fountain.
A new riverfront park will be another magnet for the revitalization of the region and another quality-of-life indicator for people, he added. They will think “this is the place where I want to be,” Stauber said.
“Great communities have great parks,” he said.
John Crane reports for the Danville Register & Bee. Contact him at jcrane@registerbee.com or (434) 791-7987.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Spectrum Medical is set to open its new offices and begin taking patients at the former Dan River Research Building

Spectrum Medical is set to open its new offices and begin taking patients at the former Dan River Research Building — now River District Tower — at Bridge Street on Monday.

Danville Economic Development Director Telly Tucker said the relocation should increase patronage of downtown businesses.
“It can be exposure for businesses people have not seen,” Tucker said.
The new River District Tower — and Spectrum Medical — is “exactly the type of project we in economic development would like to continue to see,” he added. It’s what city officials expected when they embarked on the River District plan, Tucker said.
Orthopedics, pain management, spinal surgery, rheumatology, physical therapy and clinical research facilities will be under one roof instead of spread out in offices on Executive and Memorial drives — Spectrum’s previous locations.
The new facility will include more than 85 employees, said Spectrum Medical Human Resources Manager Cress Gillie.
River District Development LLC — with Dr. Mark Hermann of Spectrum Medical as president — handled the transformation of the historic building.

Also, Danville Regional Medical Center will move its Family Residency Medical Clinic to the building in April, said LeAnne Roller, DRMC director of physician relations and industry. The clinic is currently located across from the hospital.
DRMC’s Piedmont Surgery Clinic on Executive Drive will also follow in April, shortly after the relocation of the Family Residency Medical Clinic, Roller said.
The hospital’s School of Radiologic Technology will be the last to move into the River District Tower, she said.
DRMC will occupy about 24,000 square feet of space on the second floor and will have about 75 associates including employees, physicians and students, Roller said.
The moves are an opportunity to better serve the community, Roller said. Volume has increased in the two clinics.
“We anticipate more growth in both clinics,” Roller said.
The majority of Spectrum’s employees will park in the 400-space Newton’s Landing parking lot below Bridge Street, Tucker said. Parking also will be available in the 160-space parking deck — the old Acree’s Warehouse building — at 312 Bridge St., Tucker said.
Spectrum Medical’s patients can park across the street from the tower at the 125-space lot at the old Stove Furniture building, Gillie said.
City officials expect congestion, but not an unreasonable volume of traffic, Tucker said.
“Any potential detriment will be offset by the gain in patronage of downtown businesses,” Tucker said.
The River District was once the “heartbeat of the city” and River District Tower will help make it a vibrant business district for Danville, he said.
Developments like River District Tower are why Newton’s Landing — a former industrial dumping ground — was developed, Tucker said. Newton’s Landing became a parking lot in 2008.
Work on River District Tower and Spectrum Medical continued Friday.
“We will be working diligently over the weekend to get it [Spectrum Medical] ready,” Gillie said.
It will be “all hands on deck for the weekend,” Gillie added.
“We’re excited about the move,” she said. “Everything’s brand new — brand new equipment, brand new technology.”
Spectrum Medical will be operating at reduced volume for the next couple of weeks during the transition to the new facility, Gillie said.
“We’re working on a reduced schedule to work out all the kinks and make sure everything is running normal,” she said.
The office usually sees about 100-150 patients per day, Gillie said.
On the first floor of River District Tower are tenant spaces, including one planned for a pharmacy, and an area to be used by the Danville Historical Society as a small museum space highlighting the city’s history. Society member Sonja Ingram said the space will feature exhibits and should be open this year.
The annex on the north side of the building will have restaurant space, with a banquet hall — to be called Canal — on the first floor.
The first restaurant to open will be Cotton at Riverside Mill on the second floor. It is expected to open in June, with the possibility of a second fine dining restaurant or expansion of Cotton in the future.
John Crane reports for the Danville Register & Bee. Contact him at jcrane@registerbee.com or (434) 791-7987.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Progress on the block: Two restaurants, storefronts, apartments planned for Craghead Street project

Rick Barker’s $10 million renovation of most of the 500 block of Craghead Street is moving along, with the first phase of the project — the Hughes and Venable buildings — on schedule for completion in May.

“It’s going pretty well,” Barker said, then laughed. “Of course, you always hope for faster and less expensive, but you rarely get that as part of a historic restoration.”
The two buildings, which span the current 528-536 street numbers on the block, are being painstakingly restored. The large, yellow-painted blocks on the Hughes building have been taken down so the building structure could be repaired, then replaced in exactly the same order to maintain the building’s historic value.
A few of the blocks were damaged beyond repair, Barker said, and since replacements are no longer made, the contractor created a mold from an existing block and poured new blocks to match.
Barker told the Register & Bee in October he estimates his total investment in the 500 block of Craghead Street will “exceed $10 million.”
Renovating old, historic buildings is more expensive than simply tearing them down and starting over, Telly Tucker, Danville’s director of economic development said.
The building will net four commercial spaces at street level and seven apartments upstairs.
Mark Smith, of Architectural Partners, said each of the apartments will feature unique designs.
“None of them will be the same size of layout,” Smith said. “These apartments are going to be special.”
Three of the four commercial spaces have already been spoken for, Barker said. He confirmed two will be restaurants, but declined to explain what type of restaurants or what the third space will contain.
Smith said storefronts will start going up shortly and work has begun on the 92-space parking lot that will stretch from the rear of the buildings to Lynn Street. The Industrial Development Authority will own the parking spaces and lease some for tenants on Craghead Street, with the remainder being public parking.
Barker said the design for the parking lot and rear of buildings also is being handled carefully, and there will be outdoor seating for the restaurants along the sides of the buildings.
“The landscaping will be pretty special and integrate with what we’re doing with the buildings,” Barker said. “We’re going to expose a creek, which will be a nice natural feature, and provide pockets of green space.”
A dilapidated, 1940s garage — which Barker said he considered demolishing — also will be restored and find new life as storage space for tenants.
While these buildings are on track for the May opening, two others — the Nabisco building and Virginia City Motors building — are being cleaned out and getting prepared for the next phase of reconstruction.
“When this is done, it will be a great urban setting,” Smith said. “All of the buildings will work well together.”
Barker first completed the first floor of 554 Craghead St., the former Piedmont Hardware Building, where he headquartered his company, Supply Resources, in 2015. He said the support he received for the renovation of the Piedmont Hardware Building encouraged him to take on further projects.
Denice Thibodeau is a reporter for the Danville Register & Bee. Contact her at dthibodeau@registerbee.com or (434) 791-7985.

Monday, February 13, 2017

PHOTOS: Brewing equipment arrives

Ballad Brewing at 600 Craghead St. in Danville’s River District, received its brewing equipment this weekend and is in the process of setting it all up. If everything goes as planned, Garrett Schifflett, a managing partner for Ballad Brewing, and John Andorfer, head brewer, will have the first beer ready for testing in May. The brewery will have a total of 23 barrels for production. The various beers will be available to customers in the tap room by the glass or to take home. (Source: WORK IT, SOVA)

To view photos click link below


Video Tour of Ballad Brewery - River City TV








Thursday, January 26, 2017

Enterprise Zone Workshop

Thank you to those who participated in the Enterprise Zone Workshop this morning! If you were not able to make it and would like to see the presentation - click the following link: http://bit.ly/2jCiDZo