the north face jeppeson Breathing fresh life into Downtown
VALDOSTA Richard Miller remembers his parents dropping him off downtown so they could tend to their jobs. His father was the Trailways Bus agent at the station that was located across the street from City Hall. His mother worked at Barr Jewelers.
“They’d bring me downtown and turn me loose,” Miller recalls. “I loved hanging out on the streets, reading comic books, just making the rounds. I used to sell boiled peanuts on the street corner.”
Miller, an architectural designer who owns CMA Architectural Services Inc., offered the observations from his past while standing in front of the old Southern Salvage building at 109 111 S. Ashley St. with his girlfriend Dr. Amanda Hall, a local veterinarian.
Miller is part of a group of investors, Yellow Rose of Valdosta LLC, who are committed to continuing downtown’s resurgence as a great place to live, work, shop or conduct business. Hall, too, is a partner in another downtown investment group, 213 215 North Ashley Street LLC.
These folks are putting their money where their hearts are.
Yellow Rose LLC includes partners Miller, Mike Lee, Albert Slone, Ron Borders, Will Hansen, Allan Nagy, Jimmy Cone and Mariana Ndonye.
Main Street Manager Jan Harris confirmed that Yellow Rose’s two projects planned for the Southern Salvage building are included in a list of applicants for low interest construction/renovation loans available to the CVDA. The seven other projects on the pending loan application list, combined with the Yellow Rose projects, offer an exciting glimpse of what these staunch downtown supporters have in store for the 26 block downtown area.
The Southern Salvage building, for example, is really two separate buildings, dubbed the north or south building for location. Both were built at around the turn of the century and have seen everything from bowling lanes to a YWCA inside. The southern building actually housed the world’s second Coca Cola bottling plant, Miller noted.
When Yellow Rose LLC purchased the buildings from Southern Salvage a few years ago, whatever Southern Salvage had rid the building of, stockwise, was left for the new owners to disperse. So the owners pulled everything they couldn’t get rid of to the first floor and held a sort of yard sale, Miller said.
“It was great. People would come in and say, ‘Oh, I remember when this happened or when they sold this item,'” Hall said. “They were reminiscing about all these experiences they had had at this old building.”
Miller said the investors started groups like Yellow Rose “to get more people to come downtown, live downtown. It is really starting to grow. We want to keep that going.”
Yellow Rose LLC wants to bring back old memories from new experiences in the tall Southern Salvage building. The work should start in early 2008 as paperwork for permits and the low interest loan application through the Georgia Department of Community Affairs processes through proper channels.
That process is being monitored by Main Street’s Harris, who is cheeky about the enthusiasm and commitment she’s found emanating from groups like Yellow Rose.
Harris recalled how she had to push the loans in her former downtown development positions in Acworth and Commerce. She’s finding good participation for the loans in Valdosta and says she’ll get the word out about such assistance programs to anyone who wants help to keep downtown Valdosta thriving.
“I kept touting these loans in the other cities, stressing to people that the DCA and the Georgia Cities Foundation really wants to give this money away,” Harris said. “I mean, how many bankers will come to you to listen to someone who wants to start a restaurant, when restaurants have very high failure rates? The people behind these programs want to help. You just have to have a project that will benefit the community.”
Southern Salvage, with it’s four story north building and three story south building, rests on the downtown’s southeastern boundary, its sheer yellow brick facade on the southern side giving motorists tooling over the city bridge a large portion of their first glimpse of Valdosta.
Miller and crew say the change in that view will be greatly improved once they complete their projects. The north building is project one and will literally make Miller and Hall downtown residents when they move into a new fourth floor condominium that now is part of a figurative blueprint.
On the north face of the north building, which hovers four stories high above the city parking lot next to the Miller Hardware building, pedestrians and motorists alike will enjoy a view of six balconies with 12 French casement windows rising up the wall. At bottom will be an elevator entrance for residents who will occupy two condos on the second floor and two on the third floor. Miller and Hall will share the fourth floor.
A restaurant operator is interested in using the north building’s first floor. On the south building, more condos will occupy upper floors and a whole foods (organic) store is interested in the first floor, with a wine cellar in the basement, Miller said.
“That’s all tentative as far as the potential first floor lessees because nothing is down on paper yet,” Miller said. “But the interest is definitely there. We are very excited about this project. We are very excited about living downtown. Varnadoe building at 136 N. Patterson St. The Uniform Shop will still be open on the first floor. (Project total is $345,000).
Gino Fina project: Fina wants to improve the office facilities at 100 102 N. Patterson St. (across from City Market) to create five first floor office spaces for businesses that don’t need to lease an entire building. Fina borrowed $175,000 from the state through the CVDA and put up $185,000 in equity to complete the $360,000 project. “It’s so great when a private entity can come forward and do a project like this,” Harris said.
ClientTell Inc. project: Patrick Sullivan and Chris Williams bought the building at 117 1/2 119 N. Patterson Street and plan to install their national automated messaging business on the upper floor.
The Last Crumb Bakery project: Eldred and Wanda Hunter plan to open a bakery at the corner of Martin Luther King Drive in 101 103 S. Patterson St. “They have interim financing right now,” Harris said. “This is a relatively small project, but it is a very important kind of project because it revitalizes an area that needs particular attention. If a good business like this bakery comes in there and turns that area around, it can act as a catalyst for more improvements. And that is what economic development is all about.”
Other restoration projects downtown are planned for or ongoing at The Roberts Building, 106 108 W. Hill Ave.; 101 103 S. Patterson St.; 215 W. Hill St.; and 110 114 W. Hill Ave.
Harris urged any interested party, large or small, to come in to talk about any desire to participate in downtown’s rebirth, through the state loan assistance program, with private funds or if they just want to share ideas.
“The Hunters are applying to borrow $40,000 from the state program, which is the lowest amount the program will loan,” Harris said. “The total project is $100,000. But even the smaller projects are so important. They all work together to make one strong downtown.”