Thursday, December 6, 2007
Is Watkinsville Ready for More Downtown Lofts?
"A ha" moments can happen anywhere. Mine came while I was getting my haircut earlier this week.
The hairdresser lives in a residential neighborhood in Watkinsville, although she works in Athens. She related to me her challenge to find a "cool" apartment that was reasonably affordable ($800 a month), anywhere in Athens or Watkinsville.
We are about to get apartments in Watkinsville -- they will be traditional, garden-style apartments with siding, etc. I'm going to reserve judgment until they are built, but I don't think they are going to hit the best part of the market.
What Watkinsville needs is loft-style residential that is an easy walk from the downtown restaurants and shops. Dan Elder rehabbed an old building and created two loft apartments at 10 Main Street which were quickly leased. With our dining district in full swing, the arts scene at OCAF, the concerts at Ashford Manor, and the Saturday Farmer's Market, we are primed for downtown lofts.
Our new codes allow for residential atop retail all along Main Street, and allow a urban-style, old fashioned product. This could happen in an old building that is rehabbed, or in a new structure made to look old. Either way, I have no doubts that the next person to create this environment is going to find some pent up demand for the product.