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Downtown project features loft living, retail
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Downtown project features loft living, retail
Residential moves into heart of business district

It’s a first for downtown Wilson, a project mixing retail development and residential living under the same roof.

Officials say Nash Street Lofts will be a significant step forward and may be followed by similar projects.

CommunitySmith, a Raleigh-based commercial real estate firm specializing in public-private partnerships, purchased the 129-year-old, three-story building at 215 E. Nash St. in the heart of downtown.

Following redevelopment, officials said, the brick building built in 1884 will feature 13 units available for rent. Eleven units will be residential lofts ranging from around 500 to 1,000 square feet.

Two first-floor units will be designed for use as "live-work” retail spaces such as coffee shops, yoga studios or art galleries, officials said.

The nearly 13,000-square-foot brick building was originally part of the Hackney Wagon Co.’s carriage manufacturing complex. After 1913, it was used for a number of retail businesses, most recently Western Auto.

"We’re really excited about this,” said Kimberly Van Dyk, Wilson downtown manager. "It’s going to be a significant investment.”

This type of mixed-use development is a key component to redeveloping downtown, Van Dyk said. It was also addressed in the city’s recently adopted unified development ordinance.

"We wanted the flexibility in uses in the downtown area,” Van Dyk said. "It’s already paving the way and we already have the results.”

Downtown and CommunitySmith officials have been working on this project for about six months.

"We need a strong residential component to be successful in downtown redevelopment efforts,” Van Dyk said, "to make downtown a neighborhood again.”

While this is the first project of its kind, it will not be the last, Van Dyk said. Others are expected to follow.

All this opens up the downtown area for more pedestrian traffic and feeds into the November 2013 opening of the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park, which officials hope will draw more and more developers downtown.

Van Dyk said the whirligig project was the talk of a recent conference she attended.

CommunitySmith and Winston-Salem-based Rehab Development purchased the building from Wilson Downtown Properties. The transaction included federal Housing and Urban Development and Environmental Protection Agency funding. The sale closed Feb. 1, but financial terms were not disclosed.

Rehab Builders Inc., a design-build construction company specializing in rehabilitating historic buildings, will head up construction, officials said. Its affiliate, Rehab Engineering, will manage the engineering. Dunn and Dalton of Kinston will serve as architects for the project, which should be completed by late this year.

CommunitySmith is a private development organization that specializes in identifying commercial properties in the region that are candidates for redevelopment, officials said.

Holton Wilkerson, CommunitySmith managing partner, said the group had heard great things about both Wilson and downtown Wilson from boosters in other areas of the state.

So they traveled here and toured downtown.

"We are really excited,” Wilkerson said. "With the arts factor and the Whirligig Park and the arts-driven economy of sorts, we found it more and more attractive.”

Wilkerson pointed out this project offers market-rate apartments for rent. The two ground-floor apartments will offer live-work units split roughly 50/50.

"It’s a home and storefront in one unit combined,” Wilkerson said. "The building has incredible historic character.”

Officials want to blend the historic aspects of the building with all new plumbing, mechanical and electrical amenities.

If all goes well, there could be future projects in Wilson involving CommunitySmith, Wilkerson said.

Even though officials aren’t disclosing financial costs of the project, Wilkerson did say availability of some HUD and EPA funding can make a difference in projects such as this one.

"This project is exactly what the City Council wants to see happen in historic downtown Wilson,” Wilson Mayor Bruce Rose said. "They will be restoring a beautiful building, and more people living in downtown will help restaurants and businesses succeed. This is why we need to save our downtown buildings whenever possible.”

Henry Walston called the announcement exciting.

"The Nash Street Lofts economic development project validates longtime downtown professional and retail establishments, the many new businesses that have opened or relocated to historic downtown Wilson in the past few years, and it encourages other forward-thinking entrepreneurs that historic downtown Wilson is rapidly reinventing itself into a vibrant, new commercial and residential neighborhood,” said Walston, Wilson Downtown Development Corporation president, WDP board member, and Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park project chairman. | 265-7813
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Joyce Essick said...

The only thing missing is a laundry room, so tenants can wash their clothes without going out.

Sunday, November 24, 2013 at 3:36 PM
@give it a break said...

You must really live in fear. I have walked downtown any night of the week to the Boykin Center and never seen any crime. Heck many work at BB&T everyday and I don't remember any issues with any of the hundreds of employees who go in and out every day even those who work late. And the police at the Live After Five events confirmed that people and crime fear downtown is not true today. Re: Whirligigs: Farmville has a Dogwood festival. I don't think anyone cares that Dogwood trees are there or not. Same applies with whirligigs and there are MANY of those festivals out west; nothing new here. Most of us could care less about 'acid park' and its history. that has nothing to do with the park or the festival. Tell you just stay out of downtown and that'll make one more parking space available to us who actually enjoy going there. And your permit for your "glock" surely must have come from the Sheriff's department...were you scared and harassed while down there getting your permit?? The answer is no.

Sunday, February 17, 2013 at 12:48 PM
To "Give it a Break" said...

How is it the Wilson Police Dept has no record of the incidents you say happened in Downtown Wilson? Officials at the Wilson Police Dept say downtown has less crime than anywhere else in Wilson.
As for the Whirligigs staying in the farm field, who pray tell would take care of them when they were about to rust away and fall down? Wonderful folk art would be lost forever! What would the next owner of this farm do with them 20 years from now? Sell them for scrap? Wake up please!

Saturday, February 16, 2013 at 8:32 PM
@@Give it a break said...

You said it yourself, "crime is everywhere in Wilson". If my memory serves me correctly a Thomas Drug employee got a gun stuck in his face a year or so back while doing his job in your go-to-place. Just sayin'. I would not walk downtown after dark without my trusty sidekick Glock locked and loaded.

Saturday, February 16, 2013 at 11:58 AM
@interesting said...

People rode horse and buggies downtown also. Let's condemn a business before they even start. Never seen a statue erected in honor of a critic.

Friday, February 15, 2013 at 8:29 AM
Retailer said...

I am curious what size space is $400 a month. Back when the Buyers Market was in Tarrytown Mall (before the flood) I rented a space and paid only a very small fee for about a 14 x 24 or even larger. Your cost seems extremely high. Someone should make a good income at that rate.

Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 6:49 PM Interesting said...

I also thought someone renovated and lived in a loft apartment some years ago either on Tarboro or Barnes st. How did that go?

Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 6:41 PM @give it a break said...

If we took your pessimistic approach it would never improve would it? I'm downtown often and never see anything even remotely to what you are speaking about. I also attend all the after five music events in the summer with my whole family including young children and been to just about all the Boykin Center events at night. Served on jury duty recently. Not one issue with my family, tires, car or anything else. Let it rest and maybe you are a follower as someone mentioned cause you are not willing to change. There is some reality for ya. People live downtown Raleigh every night and their crime rate is worse than ours downtown. Use some common sense.

Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 8:27 AM @ Give it a break said...

I shop downtown on a regular basis and feel safe or I wouldn't go downtown at all. Crime is everywhere in Wilson. I love going to unique shops that offer a variety of things not seen elsewhere in Wilson. And Thomas Drugs was my go-to place to buy sick-room items for my elderly dad. They've got lots of great things at better prices than elsewhere. As a single woman, I do not feel particularly safe at night and others feel that way, too. That's anywhere at night...single women, and in particular, older single women, would often prefer to go as a group to events downtown in the evening. Women are quite vulnerable and there's safety in numbers.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 8:46 PM Glad said...

I'm happy to see this happening. I had hoped they would have done something like this with Coon instead of low-income-Sr. housing. Young people will love this. Also, Wilson is getting a lot of attention from residents of colder states and they don't have the prejudices and fears that some locals may have.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 8:18 PM @Give it a break! said...

I've worked downtown for years and have never seen any of those things happen.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 3:44 PM Give it a break! said...

I may be anonymous, but I'm NOT a follower! I am a realist. I visit downtown Wilson several times a week, and there is definitely crime there. I've seen a woman mugged, car tires slashed, a windshield broken in, and nails shot into a tire with a nail gun. There are thugs in gang attire everywhere, which also leads to apprehension on the part of visitors.
Also, I fail to understand the concern with building up downtown Wilson in the first place. What benefits do Kimberly Van Dyk and the Downtown Development folks see in it? There is nothing downtown that can't be found less expensively and without the risk of criminal activity elsewhere in Wilson. I guess Van Dyk has to justify her job, but I see no urgency to develop downtown.
As to the whirligigs, I have said before and I'll say again that they have no value when moved away from their original location. All of the mystery and intrigue that they inspired when approached from the secluded country road where they originally stood disappear when they are moved downtown. Instead of being important works of art that will draw throngs of people to Wilson, they are more likely to become targets for the thugs who live downtown to use for target practice.
Most of these commenters are just being realistic. Sure, it's a good thing to be innovative and take risks to make improvements, but it's a better thing to be sure that what you are working for is worth it instead of an unrealistic pipe dream.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 1:20 PM Hmmm said...

I think it's a great idea...because better housing is needed downtown. The rundown houses in the city are a real shame and eyesore, but they're expensive to renovate and keep up. Figure out a way to make the schools in downtown racially/ethnically diverse, advertise to the max and maybe this will be just the thing. Time will tell. I don't feel particularly safe at night anywhere in Wilson as an older single woman, so I stay in. Would love to have a safe, well-lighted gathering spot for older singles who'd like to go together to downtown plays, art shows, etc.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 11:55 AM James Thompson said...

Just let the people put it in. Then be the judge. I bet most of you who think you are so smart probably are behind a desk. And 99% of you are followers, not leaders else you wouldn't be commenting in anonymity. Give it a rest already.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 8:07 AM Add this said...

Downtown project features loft living, retail, crime, shootings, thugs and drug dealers!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 11:14 PM MsSassy said...

Didn't someone buy an do something similar years ago down town?? Seems like I remember it in the WDT about a person moving in a loft. You know they would have million dollar views!! lol

Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 11:11 PM excited said...

I work downtown and used to live in Greenville and Wilmington where downtown's can and do thrive with residential and businesses. There may not be the same amount of people but unless Wilson increases the offerings for the younger population, and a thriving downtown is a must, it will never succeed and grow in the future. As a person under 30 in Wilson, I would like to see this city keep up and improve the downtown area, starting with more bars and restaurants down there. And of course, the police presence would need to be there before people feel comfortable but thats how all of the other cities do it...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 7:56 PM Ms. Pamaba said...

This is good for Wilson. You people who keep talking about crime are ignorant of the fact that downtown actually has a very low crime rate. People who are afraid to go downtown are paranoid or something.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 6:21 PM Will Happen said...

No Your Honor I do live right above that business but i did not rob it

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 3:51 PM bettin' man said...

I'll bet the majority of tenants will be on some sort of aide, where the taxpayers will end up paying the rent!!!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 3:39 PM Think about this... said...

There is a lot of negativity around when people actually have ideas. But then again this is nothing new, look at the negativity Columbus and the Wright Brothers faced.
I think more people should take their ideas and implement them instead of being all take and no action.
It is negative talk that keeps Wilson from being more progressive with ideas such as this.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 1:39 PM MS said...

I don’t understand why some people seem to be so critical of efforts being made to improve and revitalize downtown Wilson. These efforts can only lead to a better, more livable Wilson. Instead of complaining, if you think things should move in another direction, get involved and make your opinion known! As to the comment from BTJ regarding a waste of time and money on the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park project… it is a shame that you don’t recognize the artistic value of the whirligigs and their significance for Wilson. This project is mostly privately funded from well-known and respected foundations that have a vision for the future and see the potential that Wilson has.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 1:18 PM said...

This is not Charlotte, this is Wilson. Sorry just keeping it real, we can't even keep retail stores in this town much less loft living.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 12:47 PM Former Wilsonian said...

good luck with this. wilson needs somebody to think outside of the box.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 12:07 PM twindad said...

Loft living and retail is an European concept that has worked in metropolitan settings. At their core, architects and developers are artists. The danger is that sometimes artists fall in love with concepts and lose touch with reality. I don't see Wilson as a metropolis.
The only way loft living can remain attractive is if you have wealthy occupants. Otherwise, loft living quickly becomes slum living.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 11:33 AM GuyO said...

Steps must be take to secure the downtown area before this will be a success.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 10:44 AM Student of History said...

30 years behind in population also. It takes critical mass for project like this. I don't think Wilson has enough "cool" people to make this work as evidenced by the large number of writers here that are against everything. But kudos to those trying to make it work and make a difference in a small town in the middle of an economically challenged area. It is easy to stand on the sidelines and criticize. I say Godspeed!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 10:39 AM Anne said...

I have my doubts in how "lovely" these are going to be. With the high crime we have here and downtown looking like "the hood" I dont think the city's finer folk will be living in the lofts. I'm already afraid to walk downtown, and how many more Bail Bond places do we need? if that doesnt say something about Wilson.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 10:32 AM BTJ said...

The talk Van Dyk spoke of was actually laughter at the money and time being wasted on this junk.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 9:05 AM R Wilson said...

The downtown area could be a beautiful place.....but good luck with this. People are afraid to go downtown , especially at night. There are a lot of things that need to be done before something like this.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 8:09 AM Well said...

The idea is about 30 years behind progressive cities.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 7:13 AM
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