Local News

Downtown project finds new life after down economy

Posted October 7, 2011 5:26 p.m. EDT
Updated October 7, 2011 6:57 p.m. EDT

— Three years ago, the Blount Street Commons project set out to create 500 new homes amid 25 historic Victorian homes in a six-block area near downtown. Then, the economy stalled the project.

Now, a new developer is hoping to breathe life into the historic area.

The Blount Street neighborhood is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, having flourished from the Civil War until the early 1900s.
The state bought up much of the property decades ago, turning many of the homes into government offices and cutting the area off from nearby neighborhoods. That created what critics have described as a "dead zone.”

When the project began in 2008, it sought to not only preserve historical homes, but bring the people back.

Joe Adams moved into the project’s first phase of condominiums on Blount Street two years ago.

Not long after, the builder of the project went bankrupt, leaving Adams with an empty lot next door.

“It’s not exactly going according to plan, but it’s still fun to live down here,” Adams said Friday.

Some of the old homes are still being renovated, but the project developer admits the grand plan for Blount Street has had to change due to the economy.

Selling homes in the $1 million range or $300,000 condos isn't easy in this housing market, so now developers are looking at building apartments and townhomes.

“It’s not what we were led to believe it was going to be,” area homeowner Nancy Brooks said.

Brooks said she is disappointed that the idea to create a neighborhood is falling aside, as houses are sold to businesses and not private owners.
Brooks said she fears the neighborhood’s historic character is going to be lost.

“I just don’t think you ought to destroy your heritage, because you won’t get it back,” she said.

A new builder has signed on for the project and said he hopes to start building next year. Any plans will have to go before a before a public hearing in January.