All In.

Almost 2 years since our last post. Twenty four months of pushing on doors, walking though old buildings and trying to find that next project we could sink our hammers and our wallets into – all in hopes of making Lynchburg and our lives a little more interesting. Well, if the Lord allows – roughy 30 days from now we will begin a journey in the the opposite direction of “normal.”

We are selling our large beautiful house in the best neighborhood in Lynchburg. And we are buying a HUD home.

Stay tuned. This is gonna be fun.

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It’s time…

In December we heard NO. Then DHR said NO. A couple local nut jobs that are holding up downtown progress said NO. But today we heard YES! Stay tuned in. We plan to document the entire journey, but we still have a little preliminary work to do. Since we are not promised tomorrow we will play it close right now…

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5th Street: At the Heart of It

From Lynchburg Business Magazine: May 2011

by Daryl Calfee

If you have major artery blockage around your heart, the doctor will operate, try to repair the damage, build and replace where needed and put you on a healthy plan of diet and exercise. The same can be said of 5th Street. Fifth Street is the main artery into mid-town Lynchburg. According to city traffic studies, over 20,000 cars a day use the road. Not only is it a prime connector, it is flanked by some of the most beautiful and historic residences in the Hill City, including those in Garland Hill.
No doubt, there are years of neglect and unhealthy upkeep, but recent improvements and plans have brought hope of recovery. So, what’s next for 5th Street?

Following The Master Plan
With Phase One of the 5th Street master plan complete—reflected in the much safer round-about and general streetscape improvements, such as benches and trash cans—the city now moves to Phase Two. Phase Two is more about the replacement of key sewer lines but while the construction of the infrastructure is occurring, the street projects make sense to follow parallel.
According to 5th Street Master Plan (available at lynchburgva.gov), Phase Two will involve more streetscape improvements from Madison to Church Streets, including new sidewalks, benches, trash cans and trees.
A large portion of streetscape improvement funding comes from the Transportation Enhancement Grant Program administered by VDOT which, in turn, is funded by the federal Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act, or SAFETEA. In addition to the city’s Capital Improvements Program, the other important source of support is the Virginia Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program, which funded the development of this plan, along with the purchase of street furniture for 5th Street.
The purpose of all of these improvements is to better the community by making 5th Street more attractive and accessible, which will hopefully lead to more development. Phase Two is planned to begin this month and with take about 20 months to complete.

Development
Just like in downtown Arlington, Alexandria, and Richmond before it, 5th Street is in a promising position for developers with the potential to become a hip, gentrified local version of SoHo or Carytown. The property values are affordable and mostly undeveloped. So, why have few made the leap?

Several reasons, including local stigmas of 5th Street, still abound and the wave of downtown revitalization may just now be making it up the corridor. Fortunately, those stigmas are changing with time and clean-up and there is hope of a possible 5th Street Historic nomination, which will aid developers in renovations.

What Goes Where?
Recently, the Lynchburg City Housing Authority transferred two properties in the 700 block (702 & 708) to Lynchburg Neighborhood Development Foundation (LNDF) for $1. Both buildings were set for demolition due to their decayed state, but LNDF (an organization that is making an effort to develop the surrounding block) believes they can be secured and repurposed.
The contract requires LNDF to stabilize the buildings by June 30 and complete the rehabilitation in two years.

The president of LNDF, Laura Dupuy, organized a recent “design charette,” meant to solicit feedback from the community and open the conversations for the best design and usage of the 700 block. Dupuy has been a leader in revitalizing several key areas along 5th Street. The most recent and notable of which is the revitalization of the old Pyramid Motors building, which now is home to the Centra Johnson Health Center.
Dupuy says her hope is to see “success made by community.” LNDF is working with the Fifth Street Community Development Corporation to ensure the development is in line with the 5th Street Master Plan.
“LNDF has a record of getting things done and creating quality development along the 5th Street Corridor,” Scott Smith, a Fifth Street CDC Board Members said.
Smith, who lives along the same corridor, is a part of that community—a community that has been asking for several things, namingly, a grocery store, restaurants and a pharmacy. The challenge is making those things come to be in a previously depressed area.

Jason Ivy from Charlottesville saw that opportunity and rehabbed 700 5th Street on his own. Ivy is now opening the new DOLLAR MAXX store this month.

“The store will offer basic, everyday needs at an affordable price,” said Ivy, noting that this is something that the community of 5th Street has been wanting. “Small steps are paving the way. There is a tremendous amount of potential and I believe the time has come.”

Over the next two years, residents can expect to see lots of construction signs, dumpsters and even delays along 5th Street. But for many, it’s a welcome trade-off … simply part of the surgery in hopes of creating a healthier city, one block at a time.

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Tear it Down & Kiss it Goodbye

Do you want to see a hip SoHo sorta district in Lynchburg? (Perhaps it could be called SoRo – South-of-the-Roundabout) If you do, you may want to buy 702 & 708 5th Street from the Lynchburg Housing Authority. If not, they will be a vacant lots. And vacant lots in urban enviornments, unless filled with the remains of American Indians, Civil War Soldiers or a T-rex, have ZERO historical significance.Oh, and vacant lots increase the tax base by $0.

(story from News & Advance)

The city owns 702 for $20,000 and 708 for $10,000, respectively. The cost of demolition would be about $16,000. Why not accept an offer of $1 in exchange for an agreement to rehab the properties? If these buildings are demolished, the chances of affordable renovations encouraged by tax credits and low leases for commercial and residential tenants on 5th street will be gone. Instead, you will have a street that is neither desirable for restoration or new construction. Truth is, these buildings are in disrepair from the outside perspective. But I know several buildings on Jefferson and Church Streets that Mother Nature had been pissing in for 6-10 years with no roof and people have found a way to salvage them. Why? Oh, that’s right … they were not torn down and the city (Rachel Flynn) made a good call and sold them for a $1. Ask Gaston and Wyatt or Dominion 7 how they like their diggs.

702 5th Street

708 Main Street

As a good friend says, “How can our city preach historical preservation if they can’t even do it themselves?” Valid.

Let’s cut through the crap. The buildings are on 5th. Period. If they were in any other area the city would be begging for bids to renovate, not demolish.

So what’s the big deal? There is very little architecture in its original state on 5th Street. The CDC is in the process if seeking a Historical District nomination. IF, (big if) the nomination is approved, it unlocks a ton of tax incentives for the current properties to be renovated. They are in the middle of preparation for Phase 2 of the 5th street improvements as well. For more on that, check out the 86-page proposal that they are working towards. Have they been slow? Yes. Things in Lynchburg tend to be that way. But there is a new movement of young energy that wants to not only revitalize Lynchburg for financial reasons but for reasons of recycling what is good. Reusing what exists. All in an effort to create a community. Why would the city promote and entertain the idea of revitalizing 5th street – heck, even pouring your money into it only to demolish any hopes of preservation? It’s gonna take a ton of work and private market capital coupled with tax incentives but it can be done.

I’ll leave you with this … Ever been to Brooklyn? Was it rough at one time? Yup. Ever been to Georgetown? Same story. 5th street is rich with culture and heritage. It’s also rich with a past of crime and filth – drugs, pimps and hookers to be exact. But today, it’s ripe. Ripe for restoration and ripe for a renaissance. I truly believe this little section of 4 or 5 blocks could be a cool art district that brings culture and value to a city that longs for that very thing it sees in its metropolitan neighbors. The only way to get there is to do something radical. Find value where others see none. Then, in 5 years when people from Charlottesville and Stanton are driving here to see our “scene,” you can say you knew it would happen. But that only starts by rehabbing–not destroying–what already exists.

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For the Love of Houses, Part I-Rivermont

Lynchburg is not just the City of Seven Hills. It’s a city of amazing houses. Old houses, new houses, houses with towers, houses with terraces. Some are diamonds in the rough. Some are just, well … diamonds. Amazingly shiny and more valuable with age. Like wine, but better because you can’t live in or get mail sent to your wine bottle. I digress.

If you need proof that Lynchburg has some of the most amazing pieces of architecture on the East Coast, scroll down. And the best part–we also have some of the most affordable real estate in the country. Take the “Villa of Krislea,” for example.

Set on 10 acres, this 10,215 square foot monster, built in 1911, gives off an elegance of days gone by. And it’s assessed AT just $1.4 million. I know, I know … $1.4 million is still a lot for the Average Joe. I, for one, certainly don’t have that kind of coin lying around. But if I did, the Villa would be a steal. Seriously–where else in the country can you get that kind of stunner with that amount of acreage for under $1.5 mil? Only in the Burg, baby.

This post could be pages long (in fact, I plan to make it into several parts), because I’m completely obsessed with Lynchburg real estate, but below are a few of my favorite things when it comes to homes in the Rivermont Avenue area. Enjoy a mini-tour of small sampling of some of the homes that make my heart race.

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Snowflex: Try it.

It’s one of those things … You see it from miles away. Everyday. But do you ever go there? Have you ever tried it? Chances are – uh, no. I was one of those.

Several years ago, when Snowflex was in its construction phase, we did a story on what was to come on “Liberty Mountain.” There were dozers and rolls of astro-turf-carpet-looking-stuff. We shot some photos. Told the story. Moved on. FWD to last year – my buddy/co-worker, Derek, shoots some ski patrolers there for a Wintergreen story because it worked timing wise. But personally, I had not experienced the mountain until last month.

I needed some fresh pics of the boarders and skiers doing the thing they do – big air. They did not disappoint. A) The Snowflex Staff and the Liberty Ski Team were super cool and easy to work with B) the place is legit. The photos is this post hopefully demonstrate that “legitness.” We took these right at sunset, which is amazing up there.

The moment you walk in the lodge, you get it. They made a major investment. The lodge, the rental shop and everything on the mountain are A-grade quality. The boarder’s feedback was that they love being able to practice all the time, no matter what the conditions. And its geared for use by the entire community. If you have kids, youth groups etc. … you will want to get them up there. Good news: It’s super cheap. For more on Snowflex and Liberty Mountain check out:  Liberty Mountain and Snowflex website.

Even if it’s just for a cup of coffee and some free Wi-Fi, go check this place out. I will bet you’ll tell somebody else around the same thing. Lastly – tell me how this photo even makes sense…

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2011 Loft Tour

This past weekend, the Free Clinic of Central Virginia held their 7th annual Loft Tour as a fundraiser. Basically, you buy a ticket to walk around downtown and check out people’s lofts…you know, the ones you are always saying “I wonder who lives there, and what it look like inside?” about.

Its a great fundraiser for a great cause. Plus, it’s inspiring. These lofts have been created from spaces that were not originally intended for living spaces. They all have unique character that the utilitarian warehouses, factories or old retail spaces they now occupy bring to the party.

There were 10 lofts and one building available to view – 11 in total. Our friends from DC drove down for the day and were blown away by the entire tour.


The spaces ranged from smaller, minimalistic art spaces to expansive and luxurious. By far, our favorites on the tour were Riverviews (the home of Greg Boyd, a local painter)…

and Ralph “Chopper” Wilson’s Parlor Lofts, which now stretch halfway down the 9th block of Main St.

And BTW, if you’re in the market for a place to live, there are a few spaces available to rent ranging from $750-$1,500. And when gas gets to $5 a gallon, you’ll look like a genius walking everywhere.

Here is the other benefit to these events – they boost business and tax revenue. How? The weather was amazing so the streets of downtown were p-a-c-k-e-d. Every restaurant and coffee shop was doing serious business.

We were examples of that – we started the morning with Andy Schools at The White Hart and ended the afternoon with lunch at The Depot Grill. Tell me that’s not a great day.

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