By DANIELLE GRADY
News and Tribune
NEW ALBANY, IN (NEWS AND TRIBUNE) - "Micro loft" apartments and commercial space will be hallmarks of a project planned for New Albany's former Tommy Lancaster Restaurant and Market Boy Grocery properties.
The New Albany Redevelopment Commission began seeking developers for the city-owned properties last summer after purchasing and tearing down the iconic, but languishing New Albany businesses. This April, they finally approved a development agreement from the New Albany-based Progressive Land Development company for a three-story, multi-use apartment complex.
Progressive Land Development Owner, Paul Barber, said that New Albany legal counsel is looking over the agreement, which could be finalized within the next couple of weeks, according to Director of City Operations Mike Hall.
The city only received one proposal for the property, but Redevelopment Director Josh Staten is satisfied with Barber's plans. The city originally asked for a multi-use project, and they got one.
"I think it's a unique design, it's something that's relatively new to the area, and it's in an area of town that we're excited about," Staten said.
Barber was originally interested in building a regular apartment complex on the properties, but after some market research, found that there was a need for housing for millennials and units in the $600 to $850 range.
Barber thinks his current $3.5 million concept meets both criteria.
The project, called Lancaster Lofts, does not have a finalized design, but Barber intends for it to feature 50, small units to appeal to both young renters and empty nesters.
"We feel like the utility of space is needed across all demographics," Barber said. "Folks are needing to downsize. They want to use all the space that they live in."
The tiniest of the tiny units, called micro lofts, will have a base floor of 300 to 315-square feet, which will expand to around 425-square feet with the loft. Residents can sleep in the lofts, but some units will also contain murphy beds so that residents can use the loft as a second bedroom or living space. Barber also foresees units containing expandable and multi-use furniture with pieces that could be treated as both a chair and a table or a table and a desk.
The complex will also contain studio-esque mid-sized units, between 500 and 600-square feet, as well as one-bedroom, 650-square foot options.
On the first floor of Lancaster Lofts, Barber plans to build commercial space. His company originally talked about including restaurants, but to avoid smells permeating the development's living quarters, they've now shifted to searching for boutique tenants. Barber is interested in attracting food trucks to the development, which could park for free in their lot and sell food to residents. Progressive Land Development has detected interest from potential tenants for the project, but nothing has been finalized.
Lancaster Lofts will also feature a bike storage area, secured mail system and parking lot, potentially with one space per tenant, available for a price of approximately $25 per month.
Barber has also bought five homes and seven lots surrounding the development, which he hopes to continue to build upon, as long as the city agrees to demolish the remaining buildings. Barber is interested in potentially turning the extra properties into a phase two of Lancaster Lofts as long as the complex prospers. If not, he'll find another use for them.
Some of the extra buildings, which Barber describes as dilapidated, contain renters who have been told of his plans. Most of them will be out by June 1. Meanwhile, Barber is hoping to buy more properties in the area.
Barber's ultimate goal is to revitalize the area surrounding Lancaster Lofts, referred to as Uptown. Mayor Jeff Gahan harbored concerns about the area, Staten said. It was one of the first places he talked with the newly-hired Staten about focusing on.
Lancaster Lofts turned out to be a "good fit" for the area, Staten said. One that he thinks could have a ripple effect along Vincennes Street.
The area currently features New Albany High School and some "really cool, smaller neighborhoods," Staten said. Then there are the run-down homes that Barber described.
But the business owner believes that the neighborhood does have potential -- with a close proximity to downtown New Albany, the Ohio River Greenway, the Clark Memorial Bridge and Interstate-64.
Lancaster Lofts is expected to take a year to build with construction potentially starting in September. Underground gas tanks underneath the properties have been removed, freeing up the project for build out.