A recent study has determined that downtown Mount Airy would be a prime location for market-rate housing similar to units presently existing along Willow Street there.
The market analysis revealed that the downtown area is an extremely promising one for the more upscale rental housing segment, according to Tom Webb, a member of the Mount Airy Redevelopment Commission. This could pave the way for 100 new apartment units.
Webb served in a liaison role with the firm conducting the market study, Cushman & Wakefield, on behalf of the commission that is seeking to revitalize an area including the former Spencer’s Inc. industrial buildings.
More housing is among the many possible uses eyed for that area, and the market analysis revealed this to be a feasible alternate, said Webb, who relayed its results at a meeting of the commission last week.
“They were pleasantly surprised with the amount of demand here,” Webb said of Cushman & Wakefield, a commercial real estate brokerage firm in Wytheville, Virginia.
The study targeted market-rate housing, which refers to units in which costs are based on present market conditions, with no income limits or special requirements involved as is the case with other projects.
“They would be very similar to Renfro Lofts,” Webb said of owner-occupied condominiums earlier developed on Willow Street.
Unlike that complex, the units now envisioned “would be rentals,” the commission member added. “There’s nothing else like it here.”
“The market study supports up to 100,” he said of the number of units deemed as feasible based on anticipated demand and other factors revealed by the analysis.
Another firm, which has not been identified, will actually seek to develop the new housing.
Now that the viability of the units has been established, the potential developer will be trying to line up financing and other arrangements to make the new housing a reality — which could take some time.
“You’re really looking at a couple of years before a project like this can be finalized,” Webb said.
The new housing would enhance what is already in the same area, based on the concept described.
Last winter, a Winston-Salem developer, The Landmark Group, had proposed using six of the Spencer’s buildings for apartments geared toward families and targeted-senior populations who would have to meet income guidelines to live in those units.
However, this drew opposition — particularly from residents of Renfro Lofts — who were concerned that housing for lower-income persons would hurt the value of their property.
Another housing project has drawn support from that community. It will involve 16 condominiums being constructed on former Spencer’s property bordering Oak Street, owned by Renfro Lofts developer Gene Rees, which will be sold on the open market.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.