Developers broke ground Tuesday, December 6th for the largest redevelopment project in Wilson’s history, the conversion of a brick tobacco warehouse into apartments, commercial development and a visitor’s center for a massive art project.
Capilano Capital, LLC recently completed its purchase of the former Hi-Dollar Tobacco Warehouse from Wilson Downtown Properties. Now Waukeshaw Development, in partnership with Echelon Resources, will begin work on Hi-Dollar, located at 230 South Goldsboro St., one of two remaining historic brick tobacco warehouses in Historic Downtown Wilson.
The $12 million project, which will be known as Whirligig Station, will offer approximately 90 market-rate loft apartments; several commercial spaces including restaurant, retail and office; and a welcome center for the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park, scheduled to open in 2017.
The renovation is anticipated to expand the existing square footage of the 64,000-square-foot building to more than 90,000 square feet. Completion of the project is expected in 12-15 months.
Also previously known as the Cooper, Watson, Gibbons and Centre Brick, the massive warehouse sits at the birthplace of the Wilson tobacco market, known from 1919 until recent years as the largest market of bright leaf flue-cured tobacco in the country. The original frame building, built in 1896, was damaged by fire in 1900 and rebuilt with brick. The main façade fronting Goldsboro Street and the Whirligig Park site features a series of dramatic brick arches and a large arched wagon door. The building is a pivotal structure in the Wilson Central Business/Tobacco Warehouse National Register Historic District.
“Wilson has so much potential for revitalization,” said Dave McCormack of Waukeshaw Development of his first visit to the city five years ago. “We were taken in with the historic building stock, but we were most impressed with the community’s vision for its downtown and their forward thinking approach to development, not just with this project, but with their plans for the Whirligig Park project, and the surrounding Innovation & Arts Zone. I think Historic Downtown Wilson has massive potential to be a great destination and a great place to live. We are thrilled to be part of that process, and to work with the City and Wilson Downtown Properties, to bring new life to this iconic building.”
Wilson City Manager Grant Goings said, “While this is clearly the single largest redevelopment project in the history of our downtown, we’re just getting started. A project of this size in a community of our size is extremely rare and will be transformational for the area. We plan to take full advantage of the momentum of this project to continue redeveloping downtown and build our innovation economy.”
“This is a complicated project, and one that’s been difficult to pull together,” said McCormack. “The city administration and Wilson Downtown Properties have been incredibly progressive and forward thinking in helping us get this done, and we could not have done it without them. When I see the overall development goals for the community, I see that the team here is not only dreaming big, they have the capacity and the determination to get it done.”
Tom Corbett, president of the Wilson Downtown Properties volunteer board, said, “When the Smith Warehouse was demolished for salvage in 2007, Wilson Downtown Properties realized the urgency to preserve a key property honoring the city’s tobacco heritage and took on the challenge to redevelop the property. We are very proud that our perseverance is paying off and that this historic warehouse will be reused for a vibrant mixed-use project. This project, along with the Whirligig Park, and surrounding development like the Nash Street Lofts and 217 Brew Works, are serving as major catalyst projects to the bright future of Historic Downtown Wilson.”
“After emerging from a prolonged economic downturn, we are ecstatic to find the right development partner to bring this property back to life. It should be noted that this is the largest redevelopment project to date in downtown history. We have had the opportunity to see similar projects completed by members of Waukeshaw Development and believe the economic impact on Historic Downtown Wilson and the entire community will be tremendous.”
The project will be financed with a combination of Federal Tax Credits, N.C. Mill Credits, local incentives, and traditional bank financing.
Wilson Downtown Properties, Inc. is a non-profit 501(c) 3 organization and acts as the redevelopment partner of the Wilson Downtown Development Corporation (WDDC). WDP was created in order to put obsolete properties back into adaptive reuse. This organization is able to purchase or receive donations of downtown properties and negotiate their resale and redevelopment to partners that open viable retail and restaurant establishments.
About the developers
John David McCormack, president of Waukeshaw Development, Inc., has overseen or has underway, adaptive reuse and historic tax credit developments in the area comprising more than 500,000 square feet that reflect investment of more than $60 million. McCormack also works with municipalities through Virginia and North Carolina, and has expertise in many small and emerging markets including Bedford, Blackstone, Martinsville, and Cape Charles on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
Edwin Gaskins is president of Echelon Resources, Inc. Echelon focuses on financing and developing historic redevelopment projects as well as facilitating community economic development initiatives.”