Historic Martinsville building gets new life

Published: Apr. 28, 2022 at 10:11 PM EDT
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MARTINSVILLE, Va. (WDBJ) - Longtime Martinsville residents had a few stories to share about the Chief Tassel Building, a couple including dentist visits as kids. But for the last few years, the building has sat idle, until 2020, when the City partnered with Waukeshaw Development to get it up and running again.

“I think we’re seeing a resurgence, not only here, but nationwide in some of the older uptown/downtown areas,” said City Manager, Leon Towarnicki.

Resurgence. That’s the feeling in uptown Martinsville as the Chief Tassel Building is open for business again.

Towarnicki, plus Kathy Deacon, executive director of Uptown Partnership and Mark Heath, president and CEO of Martinsville-Henry County EDC, joined developer Dave McCormack and the community for a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday.

Breathing new life into historic buildings is nothing new for Waukeshaw Development.

“That’s really our specialty, is coming and trying to unlock the potential of buildings like this,” said McCormack, the president of Waukeshaw Development Inc.

While there is some office space on the first floor, the majority of the four-story building is made up of 21 apartments.

“Some are gonna be furnished depending on if someone wants to be here shorter than a year and some won’t be, so there will be options for folks,” said McCormack.

Project and City leaders are proud of how far the Chief Tassel Building has come in the last fourteen months. But they believe there’s a lot more in the future of uptown Martinsville.

“It was a bigger crowd than I think anybody imagined would be here, but I think it just shows the kind of interest and excitement that people have for what’s happening in uptown Martinsville,” said Towarnicki.

“There’s nothing better than seeing the emotional response that we get from projects like this. Being a part of a team is really exciting for us, partnering with the City to solve problems, it’s a really big deal, really fulfilling.” said McCormack.

For more information, you can find the press release below:

“Waukeshaw Development is excited to announce that it will officially open the Chief Tassel building at a grand opening ceremony scheduled for Thursday, April 28 th at 2 PM at 51 E. Church St. in Martinsville. There will be a brief speaking program followed by tours of the building. All are invited.

Waukeshaw entered into a redevelopment agreement with the City of Martinsville for the Chief Tassel building in 2020. After conducting environmental remediation and a top to bottom renovation, the building has maintained its historic use as a mixed-use property with a modern reimagining of style and amenities. It now accommodates 2 commercial office spaces on the ground floor including a conference room, and 21 residential units in the remainder of the building. Half of these units will be leased as short-term furnished rentals for traveling professionals and others.

The Chief Tassel building was constructed in 1929 and is an architectural cornerstone of Uptown Martinsville. Over time, the building was underutilized and began to deteriorate significantly. The City of Martinsville acquired the property in 2018 and sought redevelopment proposals, ultimately choosing Waukeshaw as the right group for the project. This is Waukeshaw’s second Martinsville project. The company completed the redevelopment of the Henry Hotel and transformed it into The Henry in 2015, another mixed-use historic property just across Church Street from Chief Tassel.

Waukeshaw worked closely with the City of Martinsville and received assistance from the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corporation, the Uptown Partnership, and Complete Community Economies to bring this project to fruition. Special thanks are due to Martinsville Zoning Administrator, Kris Bridges for his partnership, and to the Harvest Foundation for highlighting Chief Tassel’s redevelopment potential and the need for housing in the community during their 2019 Housing Summit.

Waukeshaw, which specializes in adaptive reuse and historic preservation work, employed historic tax credits as part of the redevelopment and will receive Enterprise Zone incentives. 2 Additionally, the City received a grant from the Virginia Brownfields Assistance Fund from the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and Department of Environmental Quality for environmental remediation work.

“We were thrilled to come back to Martinsville for this project. The Henry has been a true success for us, and we jumped at the opportunity to work with the City again on a project right across the street”, remarked Waukeshaw President, Dave McCormack. “The City has seen such a demand for housing amidst multiple economic development wins, and we are confident that these spaces are really needed to continue the upward trend Martinsville is experiencing.”

“Waukeshaw has proven to be a fantastic development partner for Martinsville. The City is seeing tremendous economic development activity, and this investment shows that the demand for market-rate housing and commercial space is here to stay,” commented City Manager Leon Towarnicki.

For more information about Waukeshaw, visit https://waukeshaw.com.”

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