$18M downtown historic project set to begin

Goldsboro News-Argus
By Eddie Fitzgerald | Link

A downtown project to revitalize the old Wayne National Bank by turning it into lofts and commercial space may begin in January or February as the city, county and developers try to reclaim abandoned commercial buildings downtown.

Historic buildings located at 137, 139, 200, 204 and 206 W. Walnut St. and 204 and 103 S. John St. will be transformed into lofts and commercial space.

Patrick Reilly, president of Raleigh-based Rehab Development, has invested in the project that he says will take about 15 months to complete. A total of 63 lofts or apartments will be on the upper floors of the six buildings, which includes two buildings that were combined, and collectively about 13,000 square feet for commercial use on the lower floors.

Rep. John Bell, House majority leader, R-District 10, said Monday morning was a special occasion after many delays trying to get a historic preservation tax bill through the General Assembly. The bill delays the sunset of tax credits for rehabilitating income-producing and nonincome-producing historic structures for four years.

“We’ve taken a lot of bumps and bruises to get here, but we are here,” Bell said.

Bell, a primary sponsor of House Bill 399 to extend the historic tax credits, and Sen. Jim Perry, R-District 7, also a supporter of the legislation, spoke to a group of local officials and business people Monday morning in front of the old Wayne National Bank at the corner of Walnut and James streets.

“This $12-million project in the Wayne National Building is officially underway, which will be the largest downtown development project here in Goldsboro,” Bell said. “It’s going to be an anchor. It’s going to be a centerpiece.”

Perry said the historic rehabilitation tax credits have fueled more than $2 billion worth of economic investment in the state.

“If all goes well, we will see here in Goldsboro close to $18 million of investment as a result of this tax credit,” Perry said.

The $18 million comes from the city getting $5.5 million of historic preservation tax credits for project investments to date, added to the $12 million investment in the old Wayne Bank building, said Julie Metz, Downtown Development director.

The city and county invested about $310,000 in the historic project through a 10-year tax performance based grant.

Rep. Raymond Smith, D-District 21, who also voted for the legislation, said the tax credits will be a boost to the city.

“The city of Goldsboro will most undoubtedly benefit tremendously from this,” Smith said. "There’s more to come.”

Metz said tax credits were more than just historic preservation.

“It’s much bigger than that,” Metz said. “This is about how it supports asset-based development, an approach to economic development that utilizes and enhances our existing local assets to their best advantage by positioning them to work for all of us.”

Metz said she doesn’t see forgotten old buildings that are no more than broken heaps of material producing nothing but an eyesore.

“I see an opportunity to recreate it and make it an interesting, unique asset,” Metz said. “We, our downtown development team, see cold, handmade brick buildings a beautiful patina that people will clamor to have, and a funky, interesting residential loft.”

Metz said her team only sees assets in buildings that bring value to surrounding property and property taxes to the town.

In the past several years, investments went into nine commercial historic properties that were slated for demolition, Metz said.

The old Wayne National Bank has 70,000 square feet of space that has been vacant or underutilized for decades and will now be put back into production, Metz said.

“The 63 units (a total of lofts in all of the buildings) will add about $700,000 to the downtown revenue through sales taxes each year,” she said.

Mayor Chuck Allen said the historic preservation tax credits were a great thing for downtown Goldsboro and the state.

“This rehab development project is going to bring Goldsboro to the top of the map in eastern North Carolina in regards to housing and development in downtown,” Allen said.

Councilman Antonio Williams, who represents District 1 that includes part of the downtown area, thanked Reilly for investing in downtown.

“It’s not easy,” Williams said. “We’re very thankful. Any economic development in the city of Goldsboro, we greatly appreciate it.”