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Clarksville warehouse revival ready to take flight

SoVaNow.com / August 16, 2017


It’s been two years since Petersburg developer Dave McCormack approached the Town of Clarksville with a proposal to save the iconic downtown Planters Warehouse from the wrecking ball.

His project — an adaptive reuse of the warehouse to serve as market-rate apartments and retail commercial space — has encountered more than a few hiccups along the way.

But McCormack, backed by the town, is now ready to bring the restoration of the Planters building to fruition.

“Finally, we are in a position to announce the timeframe for work to begin on this project,” said Clarksville town manager Jeff Jones this week.

The deal closing — where the Freeman family transfers ownership of the building to the Clarksville Economic Development Authority — will take place in mid to late fall, possibly around the end of October. Construction should begin in early 2018. McCormack hopes to have the project completed and ready for occupancy by spring 2019.

The work will be done by McCormack’s Waukeshaw Development Company.

Once renovated, the dilapidated warehouse will house 27 market-rate apartments on its upper floors and about 2,400 square feet of retail/commercial space at street level. The front façade with its arched bays and the original east and west elevations will remain (those portions where the brick is painted white). The middle and back sections of the warehouse will be taken down.

For now, McCormack plans to leave intact the portion of the warehouse that opens onto Sixth Street. Jones said he’s not certain what McCormack has planned for that part of the building.

Jones added that McCormack also learned that he is required to preserve and maintain the Quonset hut that the warehouse’s prior owner, Gwendolyn Freeman, used as her office for many years. His ability to receive refundable historic tax credits to finance construction is conditioned, in part, on his preservation of the hut, even though McCormack does not own the building.

Back in 2015, McCormack projected that it would cost about $2.6 million to convert 14,000 square feet of warehouse space into a mixed-use building, with commercial space on the ground floor and living space above. He said he was drawn to the project because it was unique and groundbreaking for Clarksville — and because of his love for historic properties.

“We are not just creating an apartment building, but developing an historic tax credit project in Clarksville,” he told council in 2015.

A few years ago, McCormack completed a similar project in Petersburg, the Southern Express Building. Today, that structure is home to a coffee shop and eight apartments.

McCormack’s vision for the Planter’s Warehouse not only fit with goals set out in the towns newly adopted comprehensive plan, but his ability to fund the project, through tax credits, grants and private funding. All these factors contributed to the town’s decision to approve the project.

The Planter’s Warehouse, located in the town’s historic district at 610 Virginia Avenue, is one of the oldest buildings in Clarksville and one of the oldest structures associated with the tobacco business in Virginia. Until it closed for business in the 1970s, it housed the oldest continuously existing tobacco market in Virginia and possibly in the United States.

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