Developers plan apartment building on part of Plant Zero property

A seven-story building with over 200 apartments is planned along Hull Street. (City documents)

The site of one of the city’s first historic tax credit redevelopment projects is set for renewal again, this time with new construction that would bring more than 200 additional apartments to a rapidly growing neighborhood from Manchester.

Last week, Fountainhead Real Estate Development and WVS Cos. have filed plans for a seven-story building at 13 E. 3rd St., where the northern half of the nearly 20-year-old Plant Zero complex is currently located.

The developers plan to demolish this Plant Zero building, which houses the Plant Zero Café, an event venue and artist studios, as well as an adjacent 19-unit apartment complex to make way for the project.

The Commons at Plant Zero, another artist space and office building that occupies most of the 200 block of Hull Street, would not be affected by the new development.

The approximately 238,000 square foot new building would include a mix of apartments, townhouses and commercial space on the ground floor.

Plans for the new building show 198 one-bedroom units and 28 two-bedroom units above a ground floor that would house nine townhouses and 3,300 square feet of retail space. A 219-space car park is also included in the plans.

Walter Parks Architects is listed as the project architect, Timmons Group the engineer and Lory Markham of Markham Planning is its consultant.

Tom Papa

Fountainhead Chairman Tom Papa developed Plant Zero in 2002, when the state’s historic tax credit program was only five years old.

At that time, the program, which allows developers to claim up to 25% of the expenses necessary for the rehabilitation of historic buildings, was mainly used north of the river.

“Probably the first wave of tax credit projects were the Tobacco Row warehouses,” said Randy Jones, spokesperson for the state’s Department of Historical Resources which oversees the program.

The federal government’s tax credit program dates back to 1976 and works similarly to the state’s, allowing developers to claim up to an additional 20 percent of the costs of historic renovations. There had been local projects funded with the help of federal funds only, but Jones said it wasn’t until the additional state program started in 1997 that things took off.

“When the state program started, everything changed,” he said. “It changed towns all over Virginia.”

Among those who used the program in those early days was Papa, who said this week that it was bittersweet planning this latest project.

A 19-unit apartment building as well as the Plant Zero Cafe building would be razed to make way for the proposed seven-story apartment building. (Photo by Mike Platania)

“Plant Zero was my baby. It will make me sad to see it disappear, but there is a useful life for every building and business. I think it’s reached its useful life, ”Papa said. “It was almost 100 years old when we refitted it. “

Historic tax credits expire five years after a project is completed, at which point the developer can do whatever they want with the property without facing credit clawback.

Dad said he thinks Plant Zero’s development in the early 2000s was a success. “This has allowed artists for 20 years to have a safe, clean and affordable place to make art,” he said.

“When we did it, it was because there were all these displaced artists. We didn’t want to lose the artistic community. We had a lot of really talented artists who took up space there.

While The Commons at Plant Zero built a block above is still in good repair, Dad said the other building was showing its age and a roofing issue initially prompted his business to consider a redevelopment.

“It’s maddening how hard it is to stop the leaks. It does damage and you have disgruntled tenants,” Papa said. “Even though we knew we were going to demolish the building, we spent 80,000 $ in roof repairs last year and got a replacement price of over $ 1 million.

The project would cover 1.5 hectares, occupying almost an entire city block.

The Art Works studio and gallery, also located in the Plant Zero block at 320 Hull Street, are not part of the redevelopment or are not owned by Papa. He said continued art work will soften the Plant Zero raze blow.

“It made me feel good,” Dad said. “The fact that by setting up the apartments, we weren’t eliminating all the spaces of the artists’ studios there. “

He said Fountainhead and WVS are in no rush to start the redevelopment and likely won’t look to innovate until late 2022.

Frequent collaborators have plenty to work on while they wait. Last month, they filed plans for a pair of apartment towers along the canal that will be the last installment of the locks, while Fountainhead is also working on The Box, another seven-story building on the site of a former MeadWestvaco box factory at 501 Decatur. St.

The new Plant Zero project is said to be the latest addition to Hull Street, which has garnered a lot of interest from developers in recent years.

To the south is The Current, a Lynx Ventures office, apartment and retail project nearing completion at 400 Hull Street. Across the street is Thalhimer Realty Partners’ City View Landing project and a 2-acre TRP land is currently being seeded. for redevelopment.

Elsewhere in Manchester, work recently started on a 230-unit building at 700 Semmes Ave. The Beach Co. of South Carolina is developing the six-story building right next to Legend Brewing Co. Building permits were also filed last week for 15 W. 7th St., where DC-based Capital City Real Estate , plans to build a mixed-use building of 173 units on surface land.

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