As downtown Lynchburg housing demand grows, developers respond with new lofts, condos

James LaPrade poses for a portrait in a loft at Wills-Camp Lofts on Tuesday Dec. 19, 2017 in Lynchburg, Va. Photo by Lathan Goumas.

As more people move downtown, developers are working quickly to keep up with the demand for housing. New lofts and condominiums are being built, many within former industrial properties.

Last year, the 55-unit Piedmont Flour Mill Lofts on Jefferson Street, the 66-unit Gish Flats on the corner of Court and Fifth streets, and Factory 88, a conversion of a former tobacco factory into 23 units on 12th Street, were developed.

Next year, there are more to come.

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A new property at 712 12th St., which will have 29 loft apartments and is not yet named, is currently being developed by Danny George, who developed the Factory 88 apartments and is the project manager for The Virginian Hotel, a 115-room Hilton Curio establishment set to open next spring on Church Street.

George said although the 712 12th St. development is not directly in the downtown business district, the lofts will be quiet and will have less train noise.

“It’s a little bit on the outskirts,” he said. “As the downtown development progresses, sometimes buildings that are suited towards multi-family get picked through. It will be great for someone who wants to be near downtown but not quite in it.”

George is partnering with business partners Tad Brooks and Brooks Stanley for the project. The developers bought the building in April for $425,000, according to city records available online.

The project on 12th Street will begin construction in the New Year and is set to open in spring 2019, George said.

The lofts will consist of all two-bedroom units and will have 12-foot-tall industrial steel windows.

George said the project will use historic tax credits, and the historical character of the building, which was built in 1915 as the Virginia Laundry Facility, will be retained.

The 18,000-square-foot building also once operated as a machine shop and a violin sales store.

The building plans are approved, but the site plan will still need approval, George said. He is also still in the process of filing and getting approvals for historic tax credits.

Wills-Camp Lofts on 819 Main Street opened this fall, and already four of the five units have been rented.

Construction on the $700,000 project began in March, owner James LaPrade said. All lofts have their own theme. Rent prices range from $1,100 to $2,500 monthly,for the penthouse, which includes its own rooftop terrace.

Wills-Camp Company operated from 1936 to 1983 and sold suits, ties and other clothing. Many of the fixtures and structures that were left over are incorporated in the lofts now, such as shelving, staircases and floors.

The lofts total 7,000 square feet. LaPrade is leasing a 1,900-square-foot commercial space downstairs, although its use is yet to be determined.

Before it was converted into lofts, the upstairs space was left untouched since the early 1900s.

LaPrade wasn’t interested in packing in too many lofts, instead wanting tenants to have large closets and plenty of lighting.

“I wanted people to feel like it was a little different down here,” he said. “I wanted to bring back the history of Wills-Camp.”

LaPrade said this year was the perfect time to develop the building, which he purchased in 2014 for just under $184,000, according to online city records.

“Now is the time with the economy booming and the downtown revitalization. I knew I would either sell it or develop it.”

51 11th Street Lofts, developed by Mark Borel, all have been sold. The placement of the 21 pre-fabricated units along the Bluffwalk began earlier this year.

The condominiums, ranging in prices from the upper $130,000s to the mid-$200,000s, were purchased by a variety of buyers who desired downtown living, Borel said.

“Downtown has few condos,” Borel said. “Most are apartments. It’s a unique opportunity to have people downtown to rent or own their space. There is nothing available like this in the market.”

He said most of the 21 condos were presold before construction began.

“It’s a great time to be in Lynchburg,” said Borel, who was a partner in Lynchburg’s Cornerstone development, among other projects.

“And downtown just happens to be a part it. Between growth of Lynchburg and growth of [Liberty University], there has been a resurgence of downtown.”

Most of the buildings downtown on Commerce Street that have a river view have been bought, Borel said. They are in the process of being renovated or already have been.

“What will happen is they will move up the hill,” he said. “Buildings will be renovated on Main Street, then Church Street, and then Clay Street. It’s a process.”

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