Malenfant: Tax credits to help Weatherly project begin soon

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Richmond, Virginia-based developers have received approval for the historic tax credits they need to close on their purchase of this vacant office building adjacent to the Weatherly Candy Factory building, shown on Water Street, Wednesday. The developers plan to convert the buildings into a condominium project.

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By William F. West
Staff Writer

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Armed with new tax credits, the developer renovating the former Weatherly Candy Factory and an adjacent office building into condominiums should be able to begin the work within the next four to six weeks, Elizabeth City’s downtown director said last week.

Elizabeth City Downtown, Inc. Director Deborah Malenfant said the Weatherly project’s co-developer, James Flanigan, recently received Part II approval for historic tax credits for the adjacent building after already receiving the credits for the former factory building.

Historic tax credits are designed to help lower the cost of rehabilitating historic structures by providing developers a tax credit on income-producing properties.

Getting approval for the tax credits “opens the door for moving forward for their financing to wrap up and to actually close on the property,” Malenfant told the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Economic Development Board of Commissioners at the panel’s regular meeting on Wednesday.

Flanigan, of Richmond, Virginia, couldn’t be reached for comment on Wednesday about the status of the project, but he previously has said he and his partner in J.D. Lewis Construction, Kevin O’Leary, plan to convert the former Weatherly building and the adjacent building into approximately 43 upscale rental units. He and O’Leary plan to invest approximately $4.5 million — almost half of it offset by the historic tax credits — in redevelopment of the site.

Flanigan has said the redeveloped site will feature both one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, ranging from roughly 550 to 1,000 square feet, with rents ranging from approximately $1,100 to $1,200 a month. The site will also feature parking spaces for more than 30 vehicles.

The subject of the Weatherly project came up at Wednesday’s EDC meeting when City Councilor Billy Caudle asked for an update.

“We should receive the final plans any day now,” City Manager Rich Olson replied.

Olson quipped he has been making that statement for 30 days, but also said the developers are “very close” to having their plans ready.

Malenfant said she spoke with Flanigan on Tuesday and he told her developers are working with city fire and utility officials on final details for the project.

Malenfant said Flanigan also has asked her to help coordinate an open house and a walk-through of the site for local contractors. Seeing the building should help contractors bid on the renovation work when the project’s plans are posted online.

“So, probably in the next month to six weeks we should see some activity there,” Malenfant said.

Wednesday’s EDC meeting was also the first for new EDC Director Christian Lockamy, the city of Greenville’s former acting economic development manager who was hired by the EDC last month.

Lockamy, who started work in Elizabeth City on Monday, told EDC members he was ready to get to work.

“Let’s see what we can do to get things popping around here,” he said.

Lockamy told the EDC he would like to give them presentation at their next meeting on Dec. 5 on what he believes should be the agency’s long-term strategy for recruiting more business and industry to Elizabeth City and Pasquotank.

“Strategic plans are typically a three-to-five year plan, specifically for economic development agencies,” Lockamy said.

He noted he had taken part in developing two such plans when he was in Greenville.

“They’re really a best practice in economic development. They set the blueprint for the community, how we want to grow,” he said.

Lockamy was hired to succeed Wayne Harris, who retired in June after 11 years as the EDC director.