Johnson Commons LLC’s townhouse project for sale in LaVilla is one more step towards the grand opening.

The Downtown Development Review Board voted 7-0 on June 10 to grant conceptual design approval for the community of 91 units on 3.45 acres adjacent to Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park .

The three-story townhouses are a joint venture of JWB Real Estate Capital LLC and the Corner Lot Development Group.

Johnson Commons finished second behind Vestcor Companies Inc. in a 2019 Downtown Investment Authority request for proposals to develop the city-owned site, bounded by Adams, Lee, Houston and Forsyth streets.

The DIA enabled JWB and Corner Lot to take over the project in March after Vestcor’s subsidiary VC LaVilla Townhomes Ltd. abandoned his plans and returned the land to the city.

According to Johnson Commons, the townhouses are designed as shotgun-style homes with gabled roofs, inspired by LaVilla architecture in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when it was of a prosperous and predominantly African-American neighborhood.

In their report, DDRB staff recommend Johnson Commons put more varied materials and design elements on house facades before returning for a final review.

In their report, DDRB staff recommends Johnson Commons put more varied materials and design elements on house facades.

Board members Christian Harden and Brenna Durden said they agreed with the recommendation.

Driver, McAfee, Hawthorne & Diebenow partner and lawyer Cyndy Trimmer, who represents Johnson Commons, said the developer plans to return with a mix of siding styles. The townhouse proposal includes attached one-car garages, some with balconies and park access, which will soon be redesigned and rebuilt.

DDRB staff also want the developer to return with more landscaped buffer between the backs of homes and a community amenity area that Johnson Commons says will have a swimming pool.

Durden said mid-market housing was one of her priorities when she was on the DIA board of directors – what the city calls in its official LaVilla redevelopment strategy “the missing link.”

The development agreement says the base price of the homes is $ 250,250, with Johnson Commons required to give the city 50% of the net proceeds from the above sale.

Durden praised team members JWB and Corner Lot for responding to what the city sees as a need.

“I’m a big fan of the missing center,” she said. “I think it’s an essential part of our downtown area and the housing that we need to provide.

Johnson Commons will have to return to the DDRB for approval of its second phase within five years to comply with its agreement with the city.

Johnson Commons features gabled roofs inspired by LaVilla architecture in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The developer envisions 10,000 square feet of stand-alone retail or a multi-family residential project with at least 10,000 square feet of retail on the ground floor.

Durden said adding retail is another important part of the city’s LaVilla strategy and asked why the second phase of the project has a five-year timeline instead of a one-phase development. .

“The intention is for all 91 units of the townhouse product to go live at the same time. It will not be gradual, and it will give some time for absorption so that it can happen to occupancy before the retail business goes live, ”Trimmer said.

“We really need more density (at LaVilla) right before this (retail) is viable, and we don’t want to impose something that is going to fail from day one.”

Landscape architect firm Marquis Latimer + Halback and environmental and engineering firm GAI Consultants worked on the site plan, according to documents submitted to DDRB staff.

If the project is approved, Johnson Commons would donate $ 150,000 to Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing Park and install LaVilla heritage signs.

DIA documents say Johnson Commons would take ownership of the site at no cost if the deal was approved. The property was valued in 2019 at $ 3.58 million.

According to JWB Real Estate Capital President Alex Sifakis, the development team is planning an investment of $ 18 million in townhouses.

Board member Craig Davisson abstained from the vote on June 10 because his architectural firm, studio9, did contract work for JWB. Council member Frederick Jones was absent from the meeting.

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