Mar 112013
 

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“This is a massive project that will be an absolute star in the crown of East Carolina University.”

Tom Taft

real estate developer

By Wesley Brown

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Two real estate developers became important players last week in the revitalization of downtown Greenville.

Investors Tom Taft and Jim Ward have set in motion a plan to build a $40 million student-housing complex on Reade Circle less than 100 feet from the campus of East Carolina University.

The five-story state-of-the-art facility, which will include 11,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space, is expected to transform the face of downtown Greenville and the way the city attracts new businesses to the area.

Before the first batch of concrete is poured, the two developers will reportedly be among the first to apply for a capital investment grant from the city to help offset up to $1 million in unforeseen construction costs.

“This is a massive project that will be an absolute star in the crown of East Carolina University,” Taft said in a phone interview on Friday. “When we are finished, it will be one of the nicest student-housing projects in the country.”

Taft and Ward said they began planning and assembling property for the project, which was once six separate parcels, seven years ago. Now, 3-D models show the complex as a place that will provide “unsurpassed living amenities.”

The bottom floor of the complex will face Reade Circle and include 11,485 square feet of retail and outdoor seating and dining. The remaining four levels will be divided into three sections — each set apart by its own courtyard — that extend along a four-acre block of property bound by Cotanche, Eighth and Evans streets.

In total, the facility will house 240 multi-family units — each of the 545 rooms with a private bathroom — and include a pool, health club, state-of-the-art security system and a 430-space enclosed parking deck.

“It is not going to be party central,” Taft said. “It is going to be a well-monitored housing facility within walking distance of campus that parents see as an attractive and safe place to send their children to study and live.”

The complex will fill a void in a downtown area that has posed challenges to developers in previous years. It will take the place of the former sites of Taff Office Equipment, Ham’s restaurant and Georgetown Apartments.

Demolition of each of the sites is scheduled to begin next week, after the Greenville Board Adjustment approved Taft and Ward for a special-use permit last month to operate a dormitory-style apartment complex.

The board said the proposal was in general compliance with Horizons, the city’s comprehensive plan.

“In about a month, it will be a completely bald site,” Taft said.

From there, Taft said the plan is to negotiate a six-year capital investment grant with the city in the next month to help remove some underground piling and relocate public utilities. Taft quoted the two measures at $1 million, but he could not say how much he and Ward will request from the city.

While not yet finalized, Greenville capital investment grants reportedly would offer some of the property tax revenue the businesses generate. Early proposals of the program show it would apply to projects exceeding a certain investment threshold — possibly $20 million — and be made in cash following the payment of property taxes in the year after a project’s completion.

Greenville Economic Development Manager Carl Rees has said cash payouts typically would represent about 80 percent of the tax revenue the city expects to net for the duration of the grant and could extend anywhere from three to 10 years.

Taft and Ward plan to finalize a loan with BB&T in May and begin construction in June. The two estimate it will take 18 to 20 months to build the facility. The building will reportedly open in the summer of 2015, but between now and then, more neighboring developments are expected to follow.

“From start to finish, it will have been almost a decade-long project and we believe it will get the ball rolling in more quality development in downtown Greenville,” Ward said. “We look forward to watching it all evolve.”

Contact Wesley Brown at 252-329-9579 or wbrown@reflector.com. Follow him on Twitter @CityWatchdog.

via The Daily Reflector.

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