Rome’s Between the Rivers Historic district is in the process of an unprecedented residential growth spurt. For years the Downtown Development Authority has put a high priority on getting the upper level of many of the downtown buildings renovated for apartment living. Now, several condominium-style projects are going to bring more than 30 new families to the heart of downtown Rome, and a massive new single-family home is rapidly rising where a historic home was gutted by fire in January.
The Lofts at Third and Broad, along with Hoyt Hill by the river, represent the condo developments, while Lee Bagley is building a home on Fourth Avenue for his brother Ben Bagley on a lot that was previously owned by Ira Levy, who had almost completed a nearly million dollar renovation of an old home when it burned to the ground.
The Lofts at Third and Broad include 26 residential units, each with a balcony overlooking the downtown district. Levy said his image of the property was the old Third Avenue Hotel which occupied the site decades ago.
One-bedroom units at the Lofts start at $220,000, while two-bedroom condos start at $328,500, according to the project’s website.
In addition to the residential units on the third and fourth levels of the building, the property will include six retail spaces which are also being sold as opposed to being leased. Those spaces start at $97,900.
A compelling reason for the development of condominium-type units is that the return on investment, if the units sell quickly, is obviously much faster than the typical leasing of apartments. Architect Mark Cochran said that on the other hand, the use of historic tax credits to help with the financing of projects in places like the Between the Rivers Historic District promotes apartment development because those tax credits cannot be sold for a specified number of years.
“I believe, though, that there are a myriad of opportunities for condominium development in a number of the existing buildings on Broad Street,” Cochran said.
Rome Downtown Development Director Amanda Carter said the influx of new owner-occupied residential units will definitely increase the foot traffic on Broad Street.
“We have felt like this would increase business downtown, not only for the restaurants, because they (new residents) will be eating, but all of the businesses downtown,” Carter said.
The new Between the Rivers Farmers Market which operates at Bridgepoint Plaza each Saturday came along at just the right time, according to Carter, because the one retail need for the growing number of downtown residents has been a nearby place to get groceries.
“They can just hop over and grab fresh produce for the week,” Carter said.
Closings for the sale of condos that have already had deposits placed is now expected to occur sometime in August. The heavy winter and spring rains held up a lot of the exterior brick work, however the interior work of many of the units is basically complete.
Hoyt Hill by the river includes eight new town homes adjacent to the Rome-Floyd County Library, where the historic Hoyt family home had fallen into disrepair over the years and was finally approved for demolition.
The town-home style condos at Hoyt Hill will include eight units, with three-bedroom homes starting at $470,000 and four-bedroom units from $540,000, according to the development’s website.
Construction of the first four units, which are highest up on the hill, is moving along at a rapid pace.
Floyd County Tax Commissioner Kevin Payne said the new construction will easily add more than $100,000 to the downtown property tax base.
On the opposite side of the Oostanaula River, in the so-called River District, Cochran is working with developer Wayne Robinson to create another brand new mixed-use building on property adjacent to the Courtyard By Marriott hotel. Cochran is still in the process of putting the finishing touch on a design that would have retail space at the West Third Street level; a restaurant on the second floor, at levee level; with two floors of condominium units and three stories that would be marketed as apartments.
Carter said another positive factor to the number of owner-occupied units is that she expects they will perhaps do a better job of maintaining their units.
“I love Hoyt Hill now that you can actually see something there. It looks just like the renderings,” Carter said. She was also pleased with the look of the retail units at The Lofts now that all of the scaffolding on the Broad Street frontage of the building and safety walk tunnel have been removed. “It actually looks like storefronts and they look really good,” Carter said.
Lee Ann Dempsey, owner of Bella Luna, 15 E. Third Ave., is excited about making the move to retail space in The Lofts. She has taken two of the six retail spaces for Bella Luna Gifts, and a third space will be developed as a high end nail salon.
“We prefer to own property as opposed to leasing,” Dempsey said. “Its just a philosophy that we have. We have already sold the building that Bella Luna is in.”
She said that having approximately 2,200 square feet in The Lofts building, close to 800 square feet larger than her existing space, will allow her to add new lines of merchandise.
“It’ll be a fun move,” Dempsey said.