Featured photo: From LoopNet.com
An ice cream shop? A butchery? A bar? A coffee shop?
The possibilities were endless as the new owners of long-abandoned buildings near the Westerwood neighborhood met with community members this past week to discuss the lot’s future use.
The two buildings located at 1013 Battleground Avenue have long stood empty. Located at the junction of Benjamin Parkway and Battleground Avenue, the lot includes an old gas station and car-repair shop. An old sign that reads “Rusty Gas and Convenience” gives passersby an indication of the lot’s former life. The location sits at the entrance of downtown, is located close to the Westerwood neighborhood and has neighbors including Bee Safe Storage across the street and the new office building at 1007 Battleground Avenue.
Now Hand Grecade LLC, made up of four Greensboro businessmen, have bought the parcel and are looking for ideas on how to renovate their new purchase.
“We all just wanted to see something productive happen,” said Sam Simpson with Simpson Commercial Real Estate and one of the business partners of Hand Grecade LLC. “It was becoming a blight.”
According to county records, the parcel was last sold for $600,000 in November 2016 to an oil company. Then, in July 2017, the deed was transferred to an energy company which owned the property until October of this year when Hand Grecade LLC became the new owners.
The total taxable value, according to county records, is $678,100.
The owners did not respond to multiple requests about the amount they paid for the property.
In addition to Simpson, Chester Brown with Brown Investment Properties, attorney Tom Duncan, Daniel Craft with Craft Insurance Center and John Lomax of Lomax Construction make up the business group. At least two live right near the property and the others pass by it frequently.
“We’re not here to ask for anything except for ideas and your support,” said Duncan, who also owns Cycles de Oro, located across the street.
The four own two other properties as a group while Lomax and Craft also built Joymongers Brewing Co. and own the Natty Greene’s building. In fact, at one point, Joymongers was planned to be at the 1013 Battleground location but the property where the business is currently located became available.
On Tuesday evening about two dozen neighbors from Westerwood gathered in an office within the new building at 1007 Battleground Ave. and gave their input about what the property should be.
One condition, according to Simpson, is that the buildings have to remain.
Due to a variety of reasons including the rail line that runs nearby, floodplain rules and the width of Battleground Avenue upon which the lot sits, the new owners are prohibited from constructing new buildings on the lot. So if they were to tear the existing buildings down, they wouldn’t be able to create new ones.
But according to Lomax, the buildings have a lot of potential.
One of them, the car garage, measures about 6,000 square feet total because it consists of two floors. The other smaller outparcel building spans about 1,000 square feet.
“We could make it a two-story space,” Lomax said of the larger building. “We could use the downstairs for bathrooms or a prep space or keg storage; the building is in good shape.”
The lot is environmentally safe, too.
According to the owners, the lot has been vacant for decades because in the past, there were environmental factors at play. But since then, the property has been cleaned up and is deemed safe for development. The property is not listed as an active brownfield according to the NC Department of Environmental Quality.
Now, it’s just a matter of what to put there.
Tal Blevins, owner-operator of Machete and Yokai in downtown Greensboro, lives in Westerwood and evoked business models like the ones he’s seen in San Francisco. He mentioned Streat Food, a food truck park and beer garden that’s located under one of the city’s freeways.
“It could have rotating services and a flex space with some permanent things,” Blevins said.
Other neighbors concurred that they’d like to see a food or drink business within walking distance. Currently, the only such business in their neighborhood is Double Oaks, a bed-and-breakfast that hosts dinner service and brunch throughout the week with a public coffee shop. But the business is for sale, noted one of the neighbors.
Others pointed to Bobby Boy Bakeshop in Winston-Salem, which acts as a bakery and coffee shop during the day and transforms into a wine bar called the Caviste in the evenings.
“Something like that, to me, would be ideal,” Lomax said.
Anna Scott Pulliam, president of the Westerwood Neighborhood Association and a board member of Greensboro Beautiful, thanked the group of men for gathering neighbors for their input. She also pointed out the fact that the lot is at the convergence of several of the city’s trails and greenways and hopes that any development on the site would work to integrate itself into the growing park system.
“It would be really cool if the greenway could be integrated into the space and take somewhat of an awkward section and make it really cool,” Pulliam said.
Others in the room agreed. They noted how the area has a lot of foot traffic and that bikers and families could easily walk to the new location for a bite to eat or something to drink.
Daniel Craft envisions some sort of patio, maybe one overlooking the stream that runs nearby. He said that the best thing that neighbors can do at this point is look to other cities and see if there are interesting things they could bring to Greensboro.
“You can steal great ideas from somewhere else,” he said. “We’re trying to look at ideas of successful things.”
As investors, they don’t need more money for the project, but they need vendors to fill the space, they said.
In terms of a timeline, the owners said that it would be about nine months — meaning fall of 2024 — before they can start renovating the area. But that gives them more time to come up with ideas.
“It’s one of the best locations in Greensboro,” Simpson said. “It’s the perfect meeting place.”
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