Brownstone planned for Blacksburg
BLACKSBURG – A third parking-commercial-residential mixed-use structure is due to rise soon in downtown, developer Steve Hill said last week.
Hill’s past past projects include Clay Court, a mix of retail and condominiums built over a parking area about seven years ago. He described his new project a block down Main Street as “a little like Clay Court but with more parking and a fourth floor.”
The Brownstone, as Hill calls the new project, is planned for the block between Clay and Washington streets. It will incorporate a historic structure that last housed the Annie Kay’s health food cooperative and replace the soon-to-be-demolished Food Time gas station and convenience store.
“It’ll be substantial,” Hill promised, describing a facility that would be a mid-point – in terms of geography and size between Clay Court and Kent Square, the larger parking deck-commercial space-apartment building that opened in downtown in 2004.
Hill said that if all goes smoothly, the project would get the green light from town officials late this year, with construction beginning by the start of next year. He said he hoped construction would be finished by the first quarter of 2014.
Right now, though, the project is very much in a preliminary design stage, with town approval yet to be granted. As envisioned now, the Brownstone probably will be in the 60,000- to 70,000-square-foot range, Hill said. That’s about half the space occupied by Kent Square’s two buildings and parking deck, and more than double Clay Court’s size.
As planned now, the Brownstone is to incorporate a two-level parking area with about 120 spaces, two elevators, and 24 two- and three-bedroom condominiums on its upper two floors, Hill said.
The condominiums will be larger than the 32 residential units at Clay Court, Hill said. But he expects many will go to Virginia Tech football fans similar to those who turn more than half the Clay Court units into “Hokie crash pads” mostly occupied only on home game weekends.
A construction challenges posed by the Brownstone location is an elevation shift of about 25 feet between the Clay and Washington Street sides of the lot, Hill said. Plans call for entrance to the parking deck from the lot’s low side on Washington Street and street-level entrances into commercial space at the Clay Street side.
Another challenge is the building that houses Annie Kay’s, which is designated as a historic structure. The building has been unoccupied since Annie Kay’s moved south on Main Street six years ago. It was damaged when a vehicle ran into a wall. Probably the cheapest thing to do with the building would be to demolish it, but with the restrictions attached to its historic status, that would take an unacceptably long time, Hill said.
Instead, he plans to renovate the building and incorporate it into the larger new facility – constructing the new buildings to within a few feet of the old, and tying their use and appearance together.
“The architect’s got a nice challenge there,” Hill said, chuckling.
The mosaic that adorns the side of the Food Time building has also sparked discussion of preservation.
Constructed about 15 years ago by public school students, teachers and other volunteers, the mosaic was a sort of practice run for a project planned at one of the schools, Hill said.
Blacksburg’s UnTagging the Town public art initiative, which is coordinating the painting of murals around downtown, is arranging for photographic documentation of the Food Time mosaic. Town Neighborhood Services
Coordinator Kim Kirk is looking for sponsorship to try to move it to a new location.
Hill said he has no problem with someone moving the mural, as long as it can be accomplished before demolition of the building begins in mid-July.
A former Blacksburg resident and member of Virginia Tech’s Class of 1970, Hill said he’s set up his construction office inside the former Annie Kay’s building so that neighbors, potential tenants and anyone else interested can come by and easily get a look at what he’s planning.
At this early stage, Hill said the idea is “just to get a feel for how I might design it or redesign it.”
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