DANVILLE, Va. — In an effort to gain citizen’s opinions on the development of the River District, the City of Danville conducted an online survey for the former Lou’s Antiques property, located at 231 Main Street.
According to Kelvin Perry, project manager with Danville’s Office of Economic Development, this was an effort to see what the community wanted in such an anchor building downtown, which was first built in 1960. Lou’s Antiques was located in the space for approximately ten years before relocating in November 2020.
“Before we start making decisions on what would best go into that particular space, it’s always a good idea to get the opinions of those we are looking to serve or those we are looking to attract to come to the downtown area,” Perry said. “It’s to make sure we’re developing and bringing those types of businesses in the community that would be of appeal to the very public we’re trying to cater to.”
The city received 525 responses to the three-question survey, most of which came from people who come to the River District for the restaurant and shopping opportunities, as well as special events.
Perry said the department was surprised at the amount of responses the survey actually received. He said it was “refreshing” to see people give their thoughts and opinions as a part of the process.
Nearly 70 percent of responses chosen from a list indicated interest in restaurants, while 60 percent of people wanted to see more shopping and entertainment/nightlife options.
Other responses from that list, including food trucks, breweries/distilleries, parks, and parking, received significant interest from the community.
The third question on the survey was an open answer, in which 404 people responded. Most answers, again, related to restaurant and food options or shopping/retail. However, other recurring themes for answers were more parking opportunities, a green space and entertainment for the city’s youth.
“If a developer were to come, we should be able to say to that developer, ‘Here’s what people would like to see, here’s what people responded to,’” Perry said. “That helps with attracting those types of entrepreneurs or creating the types of spaces people would like to see.”
The next step for this project is for the office of economic development to look into possible funding opportunities, then they will seek proposals from multiple architecture firms. A selected architect will review the top responses from the survey and develop two or three renderings of concepts for the site.
Citizens will again have the opportunity to give their input on these concepts, then the architect will have one final rendering.
From there, the office will get estimates for this development and seek funding and/or partners for the final plan.
Perry said it is possible that the city could engage a developer that comes to them with an idea that would fit into what they are looking to have at the site or one that has experience in similar projects.
“You end up getting not just what people want, but you also get someone that has experience in doing that type of development,” Perry said.
In its current state, the building itself at 231 Main Street needs a lot of repairs, according to Perry. With a basement and two additional floors, the building is expansive, but is not currently conducive to business inside without extensive renovation.
This isn’t the only vacant property the office of economic development has reimagined to spur development interest. A couple of years ago, the office created renderings of Danville’s White Mill property, which showed a multitude of outdoor and indoor uses for the former Dan River Mills building. Now, the White Mill has a purchase option agreement with the Alexander Group for its development.
In addition, the public’s opinion was gauged in the area that is now the green space on Main Street, where the HOME sign has now become a staple.
For now, Perry said the city has a “starting point” for the redevelopment of yet another downtown staple property that would be beneficial to meet the wants of Danville citizens.
“We will continue to do our part in trying to determine what could potentially be [at 231 Main Street],” Perry said. “...We’re excited that we have the opportunity to do some neat things regarding the future of that space.”