By Kay Whatley, Editor
A hop, skip, and a jump from Wilson NC’s Barton College and close to the Western Sizzlin’ you’ll find 503 Vance Street, a row of colonial townhouses called the Anderson Apartments. The apartments and a two-story house behind them are waiting for the right person to bring them back to life — the time is now.
The property is for sale by Preservation of Wilson, a historic preservation non-profit, which has an option on the property expiring June 30, 2017. When their option runs out, the property goes back to the owner and after that, the future is uncertain.
The selling price is set low to encourage a buyer to save these historic buildings. For the right buyer, one with experience, funding — and a heart for history, the property price is $105,000 for the lot, townhouses, and the home behind.
This handsome row of two-story, brick and stucco townhouse apartments is a Colonial Revival structure. It contains nine townhouses, arranged in five identically finished pairs beneath a hip roof, each unit with three bedrooms and one bath.
Built in 1922, the townhouses have been vacant for almost a decade ago. All apartments face Vance Street North East. The additional structure on this 0.69 acre lot is a duplex, two-story house set under trees behind the apartments.
This two bay-by-two bay duplex is characterized by the dominant front gable roof. The house’s boxed cornice returns to enframe twin, peaked louvered vents, and a triangle of decorative wood shingles at the top of the southeast facade.
The duplex house is addressed as 207 Bragg Street NE — built years before the apartments and near to 100 years old — and faces Bragg Street.
The total square footage is 12,896 for the apartments and 1,960 for the additional house. Annual property taxes are $3,422 in current condition, and will go up once the properties are occupied and drawing rental income.
This property has been listed with Preservation of Wilson for several years. Now, time is short and Preservation of Wilson wants to see someone revive these beautiful buildings.
According to Kathryn Bethune, executive director of Preservation of Wilson, she believes that the buildings have “good bones.” Walk-throughs have been given to sophisticated developers, local people interested in restoration, and small contractor businesses, yet this project has overwhelmed the lookers, so far. Several potential buyers have crunched the numbers on site work and environmental cleanup, then elected not to proceed. The property does need work. Still, the calls keep coming — with the latest just this week from another out-of-state developer.
Downtown Area Growth
Once heralded as “The World’s Greatest Tobacco Market,” Wilson, North Carolina is now a thriving city of almost 50,000 people that has successfully recruited new businesses to replace the lost tobacco revenue giving the community a roster of companies the envy to many metropolitan areas.
Downtown Wilson’s arts-driven economic development strategy is leading the effort to revitalize Center City. The Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park project is viewed as catalyst for downtown development and is planned to include an industrial artisan district filled with artist studios, technology companies and other creative entrepreneurs who are expected to attract tourists and local residents. Add to that the Eyes on Main Street International Outdoor Photo Exhibit with 100 photographs on 100 storefront windows for 100 days now going on, you can see downtown Wilson is doing a turnaround. Adjacent to the park, a $12 million project called the Whirilgig Station is underway for one of the two last remaining tobacco brick warehouses which will offer almost 90 market rate loft apartments, commercial spaces including a restaurant, retail and office, and the Whirligig Park welcome center.
The Anderson Apartment building’s location is prime. It’s centered between Barton College and the downtown commercial district. Within walking distance, you can enjoy a meal at Western Sizzlin’ on Nash Street and just a three-block walk to the Wilson County Public Library you are in Historic Downtown Wilson’s commercial district with a growing wave of residential living and new businesses, including 217 Brew Works, a local brewery that is adding to the buzz of downtown activity.
With the success that the City of Wilson has had in Historic downtown Wilson — with the Nash Street Lofts and the Wilson Furniture Lofts now at full occupancy — the Anderson Apartments’ time may have come to add to the walk-ability and urban feeling in the Wilson Downtown community.
While crunching the numbers may have made a few developers cringe, such a property may be an ideal purchase for someone looking to develop with heart. This unique property in the Old Wilson Historic District may be the perfect project for a buyer looking to preserve its history, join the city’s revival, and develop a pivotal property which could be lost.
21st Century Updating
Once the purchase is made for the $105,000, work can begin on stabilization, code compliance and site improvements. The cosmetic work is easy as the property is to be repaired and not rebuilt.
There are lead paint and asbestos issues which will add cost to restoring the property for renters. One cost estimate provided to Preservation of Wilson by a developer estimates that the environmental cleanup may be $200,000. Lead paint removal and asbestos removal must be completed before the properties can be occupied.
After that comes needed repairs including fixes to the roof, exterior, and cosmetic/landscaping work. Photos on www.preservationofwilson.com/anderson-apartments show how the units look inside.
The buildings need to be brought up to code, including addition of a parking lot for apartment tenants. There is currently no parking, and the city requires it for this type of living space. The new owner will need to pave a parking area as part of their site work.
Part of the city’s requirements for restoration include moving utility wires underground. Electricity has been turned off. Restoration must include working with inspectors to ensure all the rentals’ electrical systems are up to code. At this point, Preservation of Wilson is unsure if new rewiring is needed or not. Similarly, HVAC systems need to be confirmed as acceptable and brought up to code.
There are exciting possibilities, and the property sits in an area with tree-lined streets. Landscaping includes a healthy stand of bamboo and tall trees around the duplex. The city is an Arbor Day Foundation designated “Tree City USA” and decisions would need to be made regarding which trees to cut and which to keep. For additional guidance, the City of Wilson has a Tree Board and Wilson County even offers a Treasure Trees program for preserving unique specimens. These may be seen for several blocks in each direction on a Google Maps view or by taking a walk around this historic block.
Despite the list of repairs, the Anderson Apartments are in a good location, in an area that is currently seeing new investment on Vance Street and around Barton College, who recently put millions into a new entrance and campus improvements. With this growing increase in investment in the surrounding neighborhoods and with downtown activity up, this is likely to continue.
Project Incentive Funds
The Anderson Apartments are eligible for State and Federal Historic Tax Credits, the city’s Brownfields Revolving Loan Funds, a Preservation of Wilson Visual Improvement Matching Grant Program and city incentives for commercial downtown projects. Located in the Old Wilson Historic District, this so-called “contributing property” qualifies for historic tax credits, which are “income producing,” credits according to Mrs. Bethune:
“The beauty of a project like this is that when you take advantage of the income-producing historic tax credits you will see a 40% credit off eligible project costs which will reduce the state and federal taxes you owe. There is 20% in federal credits, 15% in state taxes, and an additional 5% with the Wilson County Tier 2 tax credits program. There is no cash layout, but the credits can be of great value in reducing the amount of taxes you pay the state and federal government. This property also qualifies for the Brownfields Revolving Loan Funds program, which may help with the site’s contaminant-cleanup expenses. Most important when undergoing a project like this, you will not be alone. The local government and Preservation of Wilson will support the developer in any way possible to ensure a smooth, efficient and painless construction process.”
“Brownfield Sites” are defined by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as:
A brownfield is a property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. It is estimated that there are more than 450,000 brownfields in the U.S. Cleaning up and reinvesting in these properties increases local tax bases, facilitates job growth, utilizes existing infrastructure, takes development pressures off of undeveloped, open land, and both improves and protects the environment.
The Brownfields Revolving Loan Funds information from on the Preservation of Wilson “incentives” states the following:
The City of Wilson initiated the Brownfields Program to address blight associated with brownfields with the intent of returning them to active use. For the guidelines of this program, click Brownfield Revolving Loan Fund Guidelines. For more information, contact Michelle Brown at 252.399.2226 or email email@example.com.
In addition to the Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund, the matching grant is designed to assist with exterior improvements, helping offset restoration costs. This grant is managed by Preservation of Wilson.
For more information on potential for restoring the Anderson Apartments:
- The City of Wilson’s “punch list” for code-related renovations — link (PDF)
- Incentive programs offered by Preservation of Wilson to offset costs of renovation — link. This property qualifies for the Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund (guidelines here link (PDF))
- The Preservation of Wilson overview of the Anderson Apartments and two-story house included with them — link
- The brief PDF flyer describing the property — link (PDF)
If this particular historic property seems to be more work than you can tackle, check out Preservation of Wilson’s other properties for sale at www.preservationofwilson.com/properties. They have some beauties listed!
Be sure to check out the coming Whirligig Station, by Waukeshaw Development, at waukeshaw.com/projects/whirligig-station.
The Preservation of Wilson Mission is:
Preservation of Wilson provides leadership in the revitalization efforts of Wilson County’s unique architectural heritage. As stewards of Wilson’s historic buildings, we actively promote historic, architectural, and culturally significant properties. Our efforts are to ensure that revitalized properties will contribute in the aesthetics of the community, increase the value of surrounding properties, and create a safe and welcoming environment.
Ed. Note: Contact Kathryn Ferrari Bethune at 252.234.7694 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, if restoring these buildings is of interest.
Additional photos provided by Jerome De Perlingi, artistic director of Eyes on Main Street (see www.eyesonmainstreetwilson.com).