by Joan Tupponce
Pemberton Lofts owners Garrett Shifflett and Ross Fickenscher hope to attract more homeowners to Danville’s Historic River District by renovating the former Pemberton & Penn Tobacco Co. buildings. The Richmond development firm, which specializes in renovating historic tax credit properties, plans to turn the buildings into high-end market-rate apartments.
Most of the company’s projects in the past have been in Richmond and Petersburg but they see Danville as a “smart move.” “The tobacco warehouse district in Danville is going through a revitalization,” Shifflett says. “Danville is interested in attracting businesses and people to live there. They are pushing for renovations in the area.”
Shifflett and Fickenscher learned about the two River District buildings — one was a prizery (where tobacco was put into hogsheads), and the other was a warehouse — from a historian who consults with the firm. Both buildings are located on the Dan River. “It’s an up-and-coming area of growth,” Shifflett says, noting the area is home to many young professionals working in the high-tech industry. “There are lots of things going on in the area.”
Former Danville Mayor Linwood Wright, who now serves as a consultant to the city’s Office of Economic Development, is excited about the new apartments. “Our expectation is that it will bring a significant number of people into the district,” he says. “Bridge Street has undergone more change than any other specific street in the district.”
Phase one of the project will include 62 apartments with enough commercial space for a coffee shop or wine bar and a full-service restaurant. “We are seeking out and pursuing leads for potential tenants,” Fickenscher says.
The target completion date for the first phase is early summer 2013. The second phase, with 50 apartments, should be completed in 2014. Pemberton Lofts is currently getting final approvals from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. “We are waiting on zoning and a building permit,” Shifflett says.
Once completed, the one- and two-bedroom apartments will have hardwood floors, granite countertops and stainless steel appliances as well as high ceilings and tall, exposed columns. Each will feature a built-in audio system with an iPod docking station and speakers.
“It’s going to be the place to be once we complete it,” Fickenscher says.
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