Longtime Pulaskians know 37 West Main in downtown as where McCrory’s “five and dime” store used to be years ago. You could walk in a smell the roasted peanuts next to the candy counter in the front of the old department store where you could buy everything from toys to clothes to housewares.
In more recent years the building – the anchor of downtown Pulaski – was home to a pawn shop. The old building was left vacant again when the pawn shop moved a couple years ago to a new location in town.
West Main Development, LLC hopes to give the old building new life in the next three years as a combination of apartments and small businesses right along Main Street.
Luke Allison and Austin Strum of Aggregate Capital, LLC shared plans for the structure last week with Pulaski Town Council.
Aggregate Capital specializes in consulting, coordinating and “capital stacking” for restoration projects involving historic properties.
Allison and Strum were heavily involved in West Main Development’s first downtown project – 87, 89 and 94 West Main Street – four apartments and three commercial spaces. So far all but one of the commercial spaces has been rented.
During their presentation to council, Allison noted that the appraised value of the spaces at 87, 89 and 94 was $35,000 each. Now, he told council, they appraise for over $1 million.
Aggregate Capital’s plans for the over 13,000-square-foot 37 West Main includes construction of eight apartments – all but one on the second floor – an entrepreneur marketplace, co-office and business incubator.
Strum described the building as the “perfect location in the town for housing and businesses.”
Frazier and Associates of Staunton provided the plans, site analysis and cost estimations for the project.
The second floor of the project includes seven apartments – four of which are described as “premier” and will be located on the back of the building facing Peak Creek. They will have an outdoor patio area and a rooftop garden, along with a communal area where residents can also hold private events.
Downstairs along the front of the building is a space for the future home of Pulaski on Main – the Virginia Main Street affiliate for the town.
Also in the front will be an “eatery / coffee shop” to offer quick and inexpensive food for people downtown, and an entrepreneur market for businesses.
Strum likened plans for this “downtown destination” to the Agora Downtown Market in Harrisonburg.
“What this is is a portable vendor space that is sectioned off to enable businesses to have a permanent store front when they can’t really afford the traditional store commercial spaces,” Strum explained.
Included in the rent businesses will pay are marketing services which will help them improve their internet presence and increase their e-commerce income through selling things online.
Strum said that’s the “really neat part” of the design.
The first floor will include a business incubator to create downtown’s first affordable office spaces for those who need an office but cannot afford a traditional office space.
“This space creates a unique, affordable experience for entrepreneurs and business men and women that encourages networking with an open floor plan,” Strum continued.
The final space downstairs is an apartment with an entrance on the creek side of the building – ideal for those who want to live downtown, but without stairs.
Allison said Frazier and Associates estimate the total cost of the project at $2.3 million, which includes a $40,000 roof replacement and some $468,000 in “soft” costs.
Acknowledging the project will “take some money,” Allison said they will pursue the project in the same way as their first – through historic tax credits, Virginia housing, Department of Housing and Community Development and Enterprise Zone grants.
This time, however, he said there are two new components of the funding plan – an opportunity fund created by Aggregate Capital called Opportunity Pulaski, LLC and a Founders Round.
“Opportunity Pulaski is a mechanism to help investors who have capital gains and there are tax incentives for investing in these areas,” Allison explained.
He said the Founders Round would provide the opportunity for Pulaski residents to invest and be founding owners of a project in their own town.
“We’re going to create a time to reach out to our own community, show them what we want to do with this building, show them what’s possible and have them have the opportunity to be investors in a project in their own space,” Allison continued.
Strum said the timeline on the project is roughly three years to completion. Included is a six-month period for founders’ investments and another 12 months for architect and contractor proposals and planning. The final 21 months will be for construction.
By MIKE WILLIAMS, The Patriot