A boost for Hopewell’s downtown

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posted by Brandon Jarvis

Having affordable housing will be a key factor in the continuing efforts to revitalize downtown Hopewell. And that effort got a recent boost with the announcement of a new

68-unit affordable residential development anchored by commercial space.

The Woda Group, an affordable housing developer and property manager headquartered in Ohio, has purchased the Riverton Apartments, a 32-unit complex owned and managed by Ingram & Associates at 315 E. Cawson St., as well as the neighboring medical building at 401-405 Hopewell St., for an ambitious construction project expected to add a much-needed residential component to the city’s burgeoning downtown.

Riverton Apartments will be demolished to make way for the new development.

The project, which does not require the approval of City Council, will cost an estimated $14.5 million. To offset costs, both the Virginia Housing Development Authority and the city have promised tax breaks to the development, to be called Freedman Point. The most significant of those breaks comes from VHDA, which in June approved $10 million in tax credits, spread evenly over 10 years, through its Federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program.

Hopewell has also pledged a $250,000 “incentive grant” to Freedman Point, to be disbursed as a tax break over a five-year period.

Freedman Point is expected to cover almost the entirety of both lots currently occupied by the Riverton Apartments and the Hopewell Street medical building. Much of the development will be residential, although 2,500 square feet fronting on East Cawson Street will be used for commercial purposes. Other parts of the ground level will be devoted to parking.

Woda hopes to break ground by May 1, 2018 and has voiced commitments to hire construction workers locally and regionally and to hire low-skilled as well as skilled workers to bring unemployed and underemployed individuals in the community into the labor pipeline.

Woda senior vice president P. Craig Patterson said he expects the new housing development to be a success. “There’s great demand for this type of housing,” said Patterson.

Assistant City Manager Charlie Dane agreed. “Until we start improving some of the housing stock down there, people are still going to be somewhat skeptical of how successful the downtown is going to be,” he said.

Having affordable housing is an issue most communities struggle with, including Hopewell. But Freedman Point will not only help fill the need for affordable housing, but it could become an important building block for downtown.

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