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Old paper mill’s rehab to begin by summer

David Larter February 12, 2013 3

A planned $15 million rehab project for an old paper mill that nearly became a pile of rubble last year will be underway by this summer.

Tom Papa, principal at Fountainhead Properties, said construction at the old Caraustar paper mill next to the Fourteenth Street Bridge in Manchester will begin once he clears the final hurdles with the city, including negotiations over infrastructure improvements in the area.

The 92,000-square-foot building at 115 Hull St., dubbed the South Canal Lofts, will house 93 apartments, Papa said. The developer is finalizing details with KBS to be the general contractor.

“The cool thing about South Canal is that it will be totally geared towards the river,” he said. “It’s right next to the James River trails, so we’re going to spend money on bike and kayak racks and other amenities.”

Papa, with his business partner Rick Gregory, had to practically jump in front of a wrecking ball last year to close the deal on acquiring the building. Caraustar, unaware of Fountainhead’s plans for the property, had put the building under contract for demolition.

Papa and Gregory were horrified to see the wrecking crews roll up on their project and had to negotiate with the demolition company to keep the structure standing, which they needed to get the historic tax credit money.

Eventually the developers had to roll the cost of the canceled demolition into their closing costs for the building, paying about $152,000 more for the building than they wanted. Fountainhead paid $850,000 for the property.

Work should begin on the Miller Manufacturing building this summer.

In addition to the 93 apartments at South Canal, Papa said Fountainhead will likely be moving forward on the Miller Manufacturing plant by this summer. The two-city-block, 180,000-square-foot complex is slated for 193 apartments at a cost of around $30 million, he said.

Papa said he is still reviewing final bid for the general contractor on the project. He also said he sees no evidence of a softening market for apartments.

“We’re over 95 percent full, and every other apartment developer I know is in the same position. And once there is enough supply of housing, box and service retailers will follow,” he said of the downtown and Manchester markets. “We’re almost there, and I believe that to my bones.”

Fellow developer Robin Miller of Miller & Associates agreed that the market would stay strong.

“I’ve got one vacancy at 909 Perry,” he said, referring to a 43-unit new construction apartment building he built last year in Manchester. “And that’s someone who just moved out. That’s going to happen. But everything is performing very well.”

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3 Comments »

  1. Tim February 12, 2013 at 8:39 am - Reply

    Truly secure (from theft, vandalism, and the elements) bike and boat storage would be a HUGE attraction for many people. It is a definte problem for folks blending urban living with full enjoyment of the great outdoor activities we have in this city. This equipment is expensive and sensitive to the elements, two traits which make it hard to store. An urban apartment building that accomodates this equipment would be a great asset for the urban outdoor community. I encourage the developer to do research on storage solutions that work well for this equipment.

  2. Brett February 12, 2013 at 9:52 am - Reply

    The mill looks like a pretty cool place to live. Great to see folks take the initiative to fill in all these parts and pieces that will create a more vibrant riverfront.

  3. Joe February 12, 2013 at 6:00 pm - Reply

    This is great news. Some bars and restauants right on the river in this area are much needed. I dont see how they could miss.

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