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Lofts would overlook Charleston ballpark

Chris Dorst
Pison Development announced plans Wednesday to build loft apartments in the upper floors of the former Kyle Furniture warehouses on Smith Street, beyond the left-field wall of Appalachian Power Park.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Warehouse-district residents would get a view of West Virginia Power games over the left-field wall of Appalachian Park from the condominium-style lofts a developer plans to build in the former Kyle Furniture warehouse on Smith Street, Charleston Urban Renewal Authority board members learned Wednesday.

CURA members approved a rear setback variance requested for the project by Pison Development President Bill Turner. But the group withheld judgment on Turner's façade plans, awaiting final designs for the exterior of the side-by-side brick buildings.

Turner said he plans to build 15 two-bedroom, two-bath loft apartments on the upper floors of the Kyle buildings, with commercial space on the ground floor. The lofts, which would sell for about $250,000 and up, would range from about 1,300 square feet in one of the buildings to 1,400 or 1,500 square feet in the other.

The taller building would have a 1 1/2-story penthouse loft with a rooftop garden, offering a prime view of the frequent fireworks displays at the ballpark, he said.

Pison Development, which converted the former Fife Street Apartments in the Loewenstein Building on Capitol Street into luxury lofts a few years ago, will also build an L-shaped row of garages for loft owners just east of the Kyle building, Turner said.

CURA board members approved his request to build the garages along the rear property line.

Although city zoning rules would allow that alignment, CURA requires a minimum 20-foot rear setback, Turner said.

"I don't want a fence, a 20-foot setback and a building," he said. "It would create a security nightmare."

Pison has been working on the project for four to six months, after doing market studies of affordable downtown housing in Charleston, Huntington and Morgantown, Turner said. "The definition of affordable is less than $300,000."

He bought the property, which had been on the market for several years, for $625,000.

"In terms of how much money I'm going to spend . . . I don't even have a name for it now. I don't have a lot of answers.

"[The lofts] will be high end, furnished with stainless steel appliances, custom wood cabinets, wood and stone floors. There'll be a lobby at the main entrance and a rooftop common area and garden.

"We'll be filing building permits and hope to start construction this week. Pre-sale is underway and we should be pretty well done by spring of next year. There could be occupants by the end of the year."

Turner said he's been working with Mike Gioulis, a statewide consultant for Main Street programs, on the façade design. Architect Paul Tennant said he plans to open and expand windows that had been bricked up, and paint the exterior.

"It's not historical, not in a historic district," Turner said.

But it's part of an area being surveyed for possible expansion of the East End Historic District, said Lori Brannon of the city's Planning Department. Although the buildings are not listed on the national register, they're considered historic and would contribute to the future expanded historic district, she said.

Ric Cavender, director of East End Main Street, said Turner may be eligible for a façade grant from the group if his design meets its standards. "The paint color might be an issue," he said. "We understand the windows need to be expanded. The building needs to be altered to meet 21st century needs.

"I feel we'll find common ground and it will be a huge gain, a huge step for the warehouse district. We're highly in support. It will prove an opportunity for downtown living for young professionals to become homeowners for the first time."

In other business, CURA Director Jim Edwards said the group's efforts to re-establish urban renewal districts in the Elk City area of the West Side and downtown may be easier than previously thought. Board members in past years had allowed districts in downtown and the near West Side to expire.

"In discussing with our legal counsel, we found we could merely restart the previous districts," Edwards said.

Pointing to a map of the old Elk City Urban Renewal District, Edwards said the boundary abuts the edge of the current West Side Community Renewal Plan district.

"If it's possible to re-establish that [old] district we could have a contiguous district from Patrick Street to the Elk River," he said.

CURA lawyer Joyce Ofsa said CURA board members previously extended the length of old Elk City district for three years before allowing it to expire in 2006.

"It was termed an extension and reactivation," she said. "I don't recall the details but its approval by City Council was a few days after the expiration. If the conditions are the same, you could seek reactivation."

However, board members may need to revise the old plan to reflect changes that have taken place since 2006, Ofsa said. "You have to send letters to all the property owners.

"When a plan expires, it doesn't mean you don't still need the plan. From a practical standpoint, if you own property in an area, it doesn't make sense to let that plant expire. You need that plan."

Reach Jim Balow at balow@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.


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