The Lynchburg Planning Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to recommend approval for a request from a developer to increase the number of lofts and decrease the amount of commercial space on a section of Kemper Street.
Oliver Kuttner, of M.T.E. Inc., has requested an amendment to his original site plan at 1415, 1417, 1501 and 1505 Kemper to increase the number of lofts from 57 to 111 as well as decrease commercial space by 50 percent, or 40,000 square feet.
The properties now are mixed-use with both residential and commercial spaces.
Russ Nixon with Nixon Land Surveying is representing Kuttner and said there has been a change in the past 10 to 12 years in tenants who want to rent downtown.
“Oliver has seen that clientele changing; there’s a difference in the way retail market is working here,” he said during the meeting. “So he is cleaning the space up and wants to get residents in place and provide a better living environment for those living there by converting commercial sites to residential.”
These properties do not include the Kemper Lofts at 1401 Kemper St., which are owned by Kemper Lofts, LLC, not Kuttner.
Kuttner plans to put a combination of one-, two-, and three-bedroom lofts in the buildings.
Kuttner plans to reduce the size of an auto shop at 1501 Kemper St. to add 10 units to the site and increase 1417 Kemper St. to 54 units.
The studio-style apartments range from 400 square feet to 800 square feet, but Kuttner said some are much larger at 1,600 square feet or 2,000 square feet and some of those will be reduced to make way for new apartments.
“Some units were so big people couldn’t afford to pay the utilities. It would cost $700 a month to heat in the winter,” he said.
Nixon told commissioners Kuttner envisions a place for students and other singles to live in affordable housing and have easy transit to downtown.
The developer proffers that this site will allow for pedestrian access along Kemper Street and adjoining buildings in this development, according to city planning records.
“The site is well-suited for mixed-use, given that it is well-served by transit and is in close proximity to both a residential neighborhood and the 12th Street commercial corridor,” planning documents state. “The project is low impact because all changes will be made in the footprint of the existing buildings, and should have a positive effect on the area.”
If the request is approved by Lynchburg City Council, the location will remain zoned the same but there will be an amendment made to the site plan.
Work is expected to begin immediately if approved.
“I have a unique opportunity to take a building that’s such a mess and do something with it, and that’s something you don’t get to do often,” Kuttner said during the meeting.
Commissioners shared concerns about the look of the exteriors of some of the buildings Kuttner owns on Kemper Street, but he said he would be painting the buildings soon and adding landscaping elements.
“I think it’s a really neat building and landscaping would certainly improve some of the look,” said Tom Rogers, chair of the planning commission.
Commissioner David Perault said Kemper Street is an important street and even though it isn’t an official “gateway” to the city, he said it should be.
“Some of the people who use the Amtrak station, that’s their only chance to see Kemper Street and we don’t get many opportunities like this,” he said.
Lynchburg City Council will hear the request July 9.
Rachael Smith covers local businesses and nonprofits. Reach her at (434) 385-5482.