Danville hopes to bring ‘new life’ to Five Forks area

After bringing the River District back to life, city officials now have their eyes on the Five Forks area for redevelopment.

“It’s historically a commercial corridor,” Danville Planning Director Renee Burton told the Danville Register & Bee on Tuesday morning. “We’re looking to revitalize that entire neighborhood.”

The area in the vicinity of the Old West End and downtown includes where Pine Street, Jefferson Street and Jefferson Avenue meet, as well as Loyal Street toward downtown.

During its regular meeting Tuesday morning, the Danville Industrial Development Authority unanimously approved and authorized — during two separate votes — the city to enter into contracts with Daniel Builders LLC for roof structural repairs and Clay’s Home Improvement for installation of insulation at 406 Jefferson St. in the Five Forks area.

There are roughly 10 public and private buildings in that area that could be developed for commercial use, said Danville Economic Development and Tourism Director Corrie Bobe. Businesses that open there would be within walking distance for residents along Jefferson Avenue and the Old West End, she said.

“It would bring new life to the Five Forks area and help expand amenities to an adjacent area,” Bobe said.

Efforts have been under way to enhance the neighborhood have also included design work for a possible green space with a pedestrian path and other features between Pine Street and Jefferson Avenue.

City planning officials hope to convert a kudzu-covered, 1.5-acre spot into a “passive recreation area” with a path connecting Pine Street and Jefferson Avenue, sitting areas, a shelter and a lawn space for small gatherings.

The city hired McGill Consulting to come up with a conceptual design for the Old West End Commons park area for about $39,000 in April. Burton is the project manager for the green space.

The park area will provide a public space for people to come “to relax, enjoy nature and get away,” she said.

McGill is working on construction documents for the greenspace project. No completion date has been set yet, Burton said.

City officials identified Five Forks in Danville’s master plan in 2014 as a site for possible improvement.

Officials have concentrated on residential improvements in the Five Forks and Pine and Jefferson area, including home stabilization and installation of storm drainage and sewer.

In other matters, the IDA approved entering into a $2.4 million agreement with Blair Construction in Gretna to perform improvements to the former Ecomnets building at 1 Ecomnets Way at Airside Industrial Park.

Work at the property off Cane Creek Boulevard across from Litehouse Foods will include improvements to the parking lot, utilities and landscaping, as well as tenant-specific improvements. Those other upgrades would be for that particular user.

Officials have said a tenant could be coming to the property, but will not say what type.

Local officials are getting close to reaching an agreement — which could close in a month or two — with a prospect to locate there, Danville City Manager Ken Larking said last month.

“An announcement will be made at that time,” Larking said.

The IDA self-funded the building’s purchase on July 15, 2021, for $925,000.

The building was bought with an end-user in mind.

EcomNets arrived in Danville in 2010 announcing it would bring 160 high-paying jobs and invest $2 million to open a “green” computer manufacturing facility.

Local and state politicians descended on Danville for the announcement, during which it was learned that the Tobacco Commission had approved a $500,000 grant for the project and the Danville Regional Foundation awarded the company $90,000.

But all or most of the grants had to be repaid after EcomNets did not meet its agreement.

In 2016, Raju Kasuri and Smriti Jharia — a married couple accused of visa fraud and defrauding the United States through EcomNets — pleaded guilty to the charges and agreed to forfeit more than $20 million in proceeds from the fraud schemes.

Kasuri was the founder and CEO of EcomNets.

Article by John Crane | Register & Bee