Former Lou’s Antiques building in downtown Danville to be demolished early next year, turned into green space

By early next year, the downtown building that once housed Schewel’s Furniture and later Lou’s Antiques will be gone.

Demolition of the 62-year-old structure at 231 Main St. is expected to begin in January and should take about 30 days, said Kelvin Perry, project manager with Danville’s economic development and tourism office.

The property will be converted to green space by sometime in February, with landscaping and a retaining wall installed to protect the public from falling down into the parking lot at neighboring Me’s Burgers & Brews, Perry said.

The entire process of demolition and conversion to green space will take about 45 to 60 days, he said.

There are no current plans for development of the site, but city officials will market the property to potential developers, Perry said.

“It’s available for development if we can find the appropriate developer who can develop that site,” he said.

Any development that would happen at the site would be based on input from a survey on what should be done with the property, as well as renderings of proposed concepts from a Lynchburg architectural firm hired by the city last year, Perry said.

City Manager Ken Larking said the demolition is being done early next year to avoid disrupting businesses during the holiday season.

The site could serve as a gateway into the community, especially with the upcoming White Mill redevelopment and a planned riverfront park nearby, Perry said during an interview in November 2021.

“It’s a focal point when you’re coming into town and it needs to be something nice and attractive there,” said Neal Morris, chairman of the Danville Industrial Development Authority, the city’s land-buying arm that owns the property.

During a survey of residents in late 2020, a large number of respondents said they would like the building to be torn down and converted into a public space or replaced with a facility 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.

D.H. Griffin, the Greensboro, North Carolina-based contractor that was responsible for demolition at the Dan River Inc. Schoolfield site to make way for the Caesars Virginia casino, will perform the demolition, Perry said.

The project, which also includes asbestos abatement in the former Lou’s building, is about $490,000, Perry said. That work was completed in September.

Last November, a Lynchburg architectural firm hired by the city proposed three concepts for the former Lou’s Antiques location — retail and restaurant spaces; commercial and residential units; or a structure similar what is already there, with outdoor murals to highlight Danville’s history.

“We had three very viable renderings and any one of those renderings would suit very well,” Perry said.

The city hired the firm Moore Architecture for about $11,000 to come up with three ideas for the building.

All three renderings also offered the possibility of 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.

Built in 1960, 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 more floods afterward.

The city asked Lou’s owner to move the 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 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.

Article by John Crane | Register & Bee