The former Lou’s Antiques location downtown could contain retail and restaurant spaces or commercial and residential units, according to concepts proposed by an architectural firm for the property.
The city hired Moore Architecture in Lynchburg for about $11,000 to come up with three ideas for the building on at 231 Main St. in the River District.
A third concept for the structure would be similar to what is already there, with outdoor murals to highlight Danville’s history, said Kelvin Perry, project manager for Danville’s economic development office.
The former Lou’s Antiques property is a key location that could be a “gateway into the community,” especially with the planned riverfront park and the White Mill development nearby, Perry said.
“The building is strategically located as a center point for the city,” he said.
All three renderings could include an elevated pedestrian bridge above the street that would enable people to walk from the building and cross the street to the riverfront park and the White Mill development, Perry said.
“It would be a safe way to have people travel from the riverfront park to the building,” he said.
The first rendering proposes an open-air concept with up to six spaces that could include retail and restaurants, as well as an area where visitors could sit outside and enjoy a meal amid greenery, Perry said. There could also be room for two or three food trucks and outdoor music, as well, he added.
The second proposal includes commercial and/or potential residential space, with commercial on the bottom and loft apartments above, Perry said.
The park and White Mill development, plus the Caesars Virginia casino resort scheduled to open in 2023, will bring a lot of traffic to the city, he pointed out.
“We want to make sure we’re offering the types of opportunities for additional recreation, plus opportunities for entrepreneurs and amenities for people to enjoy the downtown area,” Perry said.
A community engagement event for the renderings will be held Dec. 3 at the former Lou’s Antique site to coincide with the River District Association’s Christmas on the Plaza downtown at Main Street Plaza.
City officials will take public input on the three renderings. That information will be used to fine-tune those concepts, Perry said.
“We may identify a developer to come and develop that property based on what the public says they are interested in and what the survey results gave us and try to market that space,” he said.
A survey was conducted late last year seeking input on what residents would like to see at the property.
Green space, a public park, a book store, an English tea shop and an African American history museum were among a plethora of ideas for the building, according to the results.
Danville Economic Development Director Corrie T. Bobe told the Danville Register & Bee in April that a final plan would be drawn up for the site and a budget would be developed based on the project’s costs following the public input event.
“We would like to see it developed as soon as possible,” Perry said.
Built in 1960 and once the home of Schewels Furniture, the building at 231 Main St. housed Lou’s Antiques until the business moved to Sherwood Shopping Center in December 2020.
The owner was unable to use the bottom floor because of flooding that occurred during Tropical Storm Michael in October 2018 and three more floods afterward.
The city asked the owner, Robert Ogden, to move his business so officials could seek public input and decide what to do with that property, which includes the 22,152-square-foot building and a parking lot.
The property is owned by the Danville Industrial Development Authority, the city’s land-buying arm. The IDA bought the building and adjacent parking lot in 2011 for $458,000 to provide stable property ownership.
The IDA had a lease arrangement with Lou’s Antiques Mall.
A large number of survey respondents said they would like the building to be torn down and converted into a public space or replaced with a building combining public space and other uses.
The survey, which was posted on social media and the city’s website and emailed, yielded responses from 525 people.
Other ideas included a microbrewery, a winery, an arcade bar such as Dave & Busters, a grocery store, skating rink or skate park, a workspace for artists, a mini-mall, a recreation center for youth, a movie theater, an African American history museum (including one for Danville native and NASCAR legend Wendell Scott), an open-air market, miniature golf and an English tea spot. One respondent proposed “an eclectic occult store.”
A few others wanted to see the space used to complement the planned riverfront park at the nearby White Mill property.