LYNCHBURG — A local developer has plans to revitalize a portion of Lynchburg’s Bedford Avenue, bringing a mixture of residential and commercial space in an endeavor that one city official said would have a “significant positive impact” on the area.
Daryl Calfee has requested a conditional use permit from the City of Lynchburg to redevelop 2307 Bedford Ave., where a dry-cleaning business once operated.
The Lynchburg Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval of the project this past week, and Lynchburg City Council will hear the request next at its April 11 meeting.
City Planner Tom Martin told the commission the proposed development would include a two-story addition onto the building that would contain 10 residential units while the existing portion of the structure would be used for commercial purposes.
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He said the reason for the permit request is the city’s ordinance allows mixed-use developments that are 50% residential to 50% commercial by right and the two-story addition would exceed that 50/50 ratio.
The property currently contains an existing one-story building constructed in 1964. Eighteen parking spaces would be required for the development as proposed, Martin said, of which eight are on site and 10 are indicated as on-street parking.
“We believe that with other improvements that are ongoing in Bedford Avenue, this would have a significant positive impact on the area,” Martin said. “And given that previous use was a dry cleaner, this would be an opportunity to clean up any environmental issues that may exist on the property.”
An environmental assessment is currently ongoing as part of a brownfields grant through the city’s Office of Economic Development and Tourism.
Bedford Avenue, which is about a mile long and intersects Rivermont Avenue at both ends, also is home to The Dahlia restaurant, Elizabeth’s Early Learning Center, a 7-Eleven and a number of houses.
A new eatery, Truss Restaurant, is planned to open in May at 2204 Bedford Ave. It will join Scratch Pasta, The Flour District bakery, a second location of Gilded, a rentable commercial kitchen space and other retail spaces there.
Calfee told commissioners that he and his wife, Johanna, have been personally invested in downtown Lynchburg and its surrounding areas since 2009. In the last five years, their company, Penny Lane, has been focused on Bedford Avenue and has invested millions of dollars there.
“To establish trust, you have to have a period of sustained performance that says, ‘Hey, I’m capable of doing something and doing something well and being consistent in those actions,’” he said. “And I think that we’ve proven that over the last 15 years.”
Under various LLCs, the Calfees’ development groups also own the old Vaughn Chevrolet building at 2306 Bedford Ave., where Golf Park Coffee is located, and the 2303 Bedford Ave. building where Dollar General and Mission Thrift are located.
“A lot of you guys drive through that space consistently and understand its importance in bringing it back to life, because it’s a bridge from Rivermont back to downtown, and how it’s laid in disrepair for many years. And Johanna and I have found our sweet spot in being the people that take the risk to do the buildings that people just drive by and say, ‘Man, somebody should do something great with that.’”
He said the goal with 2307 Bedford Ave. is to not only renovate the retail space on the bottom, but to make the whole project sustainable by adding living spaces above.
Robert Bowden, vice chair of the planning commission, asked what kind of business Calfee wanted to have in the space and expressed concerns about on-street parking.
Calfee said he has a vision for an indoor plant store that also sells beer and wine.
“[The building has] got a lot of glass, so there’s a growing trend in Lynchburg but just in general for indoor plants like figs, palms, those kind of things can be beautiful,” he said during the meeting. “It’d be like an indoor greenhouse, and our hope is you could pick up a bottle of wine, grab a pack of beer, and we’re going to create some green space out front.”
Calfee said the development group also has purchased the Mario’s Pizza property next door at 2309 Bedford Ave. and plans to use it for associated parking.
Calfee said the pizza restaurant will remain as it is for now.
“We have future plans for that site as well but the immediate opportunity there is to utilize that parking if needed,” he said during the meeting.
Calfee said parking also is available at the Dollar General.
Commissioner Tom Rogers said he appreciated the reuse of derelict property and is supportive of having them add something for the community.
“I think it’s interesting because Bedford Avenue was kind of a ghost town other than Food Lion, but now we’re seeing a lot of really neat things going on. So I think this is a great adaptive reuse of a facility that has been abandoned,” he said.
Commissioner Dave Henderson told Calfee during the meeting that he shares his vision for Bedford Avenue and thinks the projects are inspiring.
“I think the use of that property and your vision for that property is probably the best use for that space,” he said. “And I love the fact that the environment potentially gets cleaned up as well.”