August 23, 2009
By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer
The Martinsville Redevelopment and Housing Authority (MRHA), with a loan from The Harvest Foundation, was prepared to pay much more than it did to buy the former Henry Hotel building uptown, according to a city official.
The MRHA is Martinsville City Council seated as a separate entity to handle city housing and redevelopment matters. It bought the building at the corner of Broad and East Church streets for $425,000 during a public auction Friday morning as part of efforts to revitalize the city’s central business district.
“We were prepared to spend upwards of $600,000 if necessary,” said Scott Coleman, the city’s public information officer.
Martinsville Commissioner of the Revenue Ruth Easley said the building is assessed at $424,800 on city tax rolls.
At the auction, some local developers, including Mervyn King and Fred Martin, either submitted bids or were prepared to do so, Coleman said.
The lending firm that had the title to the property also submitted a bid by phone, he said. He did not immediately know the firm’s name, and it was not publicized during the auction, he added.
“I wouldn’t say it was hotly contested,” Coleman said of the bidding, “but it was pretty spirited until it got to about the $375,000 mark ... and then the bidders seemed to step away.”
King said he signed up to bid, but he did not actually do so. He added that he supports the MRHA’s purchase of the property.
“If it was necessary, I would have bought it ... to keep it from falling into the wrong hands,” he said in general terms. “I was more concerned about that than anything.”
Martin could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.
King called The Harvest Foundation’s involvement in the purchase “a very, very, very positive move” toward helping revitalize uptown.
Allyson Rothrock, executive director of Harvest, said the foundation thinks the MRHA’s purchase of the building will be “a transformative event in the redevelopment of uptown.”
“We appreciate the city’s leadership,” she said, “and we look forward to the spirited continuation of the community-driven visioning process for uptown renewal.”
The former hotel’s transformation “could become the impetus for a whole new wave of development” uptown, said City Manager Clarence Monday.
City records show the four-story building was erected in 1921 of block and brick construction. Those records do not show who built it.
Despite its age, “it’s in very good structural condition,” Coleman said, although “it needs some TLC (tender loving care) cosmetically.”
The MRHA will work closely with the Uptown Partners coalition to develop the property in a manner consistent with a strategic planning process that is under way, Coleman said.
That will ensure that whatever is developed at the site will be a good fit for the upcoming redevelopment master plan, which will serve as a road map for uptown revitalization, he said.
Potential uses of the building could include retail, “high-end apartments” or dormitories for students attending the New College Institute, Coleman said.
The former hotel currently is subsidized housing for 22 people. City staff immediately will start helping those residents move to suitable housing, Coleman said.
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