August 25, 2017

How 61 Mixed-income Lofts Help Lynchburg’s Downtown Renaissance

Lynchburg had a good problem. With a growing population, the independent city needed more housing. The challenge was how to balance the affordable housing needs of moderate-income residents with the demand generated by a growing, highly skilled workforce with an appetite for downtown, waterside living on the banks of the James.
Photos courtesy of Altus Group

The Lynchburg Office of Economic Development took stock of its abandoned downtown factories and hit upon the solution: converted loft living. With support from VHDA, the process began to transform an old tobacco warehouse into a residential space that would combine history with modern design. The result of that effort is the Imperial Tobacco Lofts, a mixed-income, 61-unit community in the heart of downtown.

According to Wally Robinson, Strategic Lending Officer at VHDA, the adaptive reuse of the 19th century (1898) space required extensive renovations. It was important to preserve the building’s original character, so the design incorporates raw industrial materials and historical structures, complimented by polished contemporary finishes and appliances, and every floor plan in the building is unique.

The Lofts are home to residents with a range of incomes: 30 percent of units are reserved for those making 80 percent or less of the area median income (AMI), 20 percent are for those who make 120 percent or less of AMI, and the remaining units are available to residents with unrestricted income levels.

VHDA provided permanent financing with a Mixed-use / Mixed-income (MUMI) loan through our REACH program. (REACH, also called REACH Virginia, is VHDA’s internally generated resource that provides vital funding for affordable housing. Each year VHDA contributes a substantial portion of net revenues into this program.) The project also received historic tax credits.

The developers of the project, Blair Godsey of Altus Construction and George Stanley of Cityscape LLC, have been involved in other projects in downtown Lynchburg that combine historic charm with modern design. The developers also manage the Lofts and act as leasing agents.

The Imperial Tobacco Lofts are now fully occupied. The addition of this stylish, affordable mixed-income community has helped bring life back to Lynchburg's downtown and riverside area. Residents enjoy the area’s finest shopping, dining, entertainment and recreation, as well as lively festivals, a farmers market, walking trails and of course, the river.

As more people choose to live downtown, the energy continues to grow in Lynchburg’s urban core. According to Frances Stanley, Research and Policy Analyst at VHDA, the population has grown an estimated 14 percent within a half-mile radius of the Imperial Tobacco Lofts over the past seven years. VHDA is pleased to be a part of the revitalization that is happening in downtown Lynchburg.

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