NEW ALBANY — City officials gathered at the corner of Market and Vincennes streets Monday morning to celebrate the groundbreaking ceremony for the upcoming residential development Lancaster Lofts.
Locals will recognize the name, as the corner was previously the long-time home of the Tommy Lancaster Restaurant, which was once a landmark in New Albany.
The eatery shut down in 2011 after serving the area for six decades. Once shuttered, the building was demolished, leaving an empty lot behind.
Now, the site is set to be occupied by a new residential complex that will hold 56 units. According to developer Paul Barber, co-owner of Lancaster Lofts, LLC alongside Matt Toole and Mike Kemp, the main apartment style of the complex will be micro-lofts. Each will have roughly 300 square feet, with rent prices expected to range from $550 to $850.
"That's going to be the signature unit of the apartment complex," Barber said. "That micro-loft will be 300 square feet, but it'll be lofted. There'll probably be 140 or 150 square feet of space above that 300 to be used as the bedroom or as a little office. The remaining units will be combinations of studios and 1-bedroom apartments that go up to about 650 square feet."
The smaller units, Barber said, will be most appealing to young professionals in the area.
"I've talked about the pressures for millennials to be able to find affordable housing," Barber said. "It's about maintaining their independence, too, and not feeling like they have to bunk up with a roommate. In this case, it'll allow them to get that independence and affordability. Besides them, it'll be good for empty nesters or really anybody who's looking to downsize."
Redevelopment director Josh Staten said that work on the site will begin in the coming weeks, with the project set to wrap by mid-2020. The current projected cost is estimated to be between $4.5 million and $5 million.
"You'll start to see you some action out here this week and next week," Staten said. "Some of the heavier stuff will be in August. Hopefully, by midway through next summer, it'll be complete."
According the Mayor Jeff Gahan, Lancaster Lofts is the beginning of a broader plan to bring new life to the surrounding section of the city, referred to as uptown.
"We've done a whole lot of activity in downtown, and now this is our push uptown," Gahan said. "There's lots of opportunities, especially for residential. Where this piece is located, it will act as a catalyst for additional residential building. The redevelopment commission has additional plans all up the Vincennes Street corridor, and you'll see those taking shape this fall. "
Gahan noted that housing is something his team is happy to see come to New Albany, especially near the city's core. Prospective residents looking for a place may have difficulties in the current market.
"There's not a lot of new places for residents to go, because they're all occupied," Gahan said. "Any new residential opportunity in New Albany is a good thing. This gives people another option. With the proximity to downtown, the Greenway and Spring Street, it's a good location."
By keeping the former occupant's namesake, Gahan said the development is paying well-earned homage to Tommy Lancaster and his family.
"This kind of tips the hat to Lancaster's," Gahan said. "It was a very dear place to a lot of folks in New Albany. I think they're going to be very proud of it."
Joining in the celebration on site was founder Tommy Lancaster's daughter-in-law Connie and her son, Todd. According to the latter, seeing the old building being torn down was a tough pill to swallow. The fact that the coming complex will bear his family's name, however, is something he's thrilled to see.
"To see it demolished, it hurt a lot more than I thought it would," Todd Lancaster said. "I grew up here as a kid. Now, this is a first-class project. I love the fact that the name's going to stay down on this corner like it was since 1953."
Lancaster added that he hopes to see the once-buzzing corridor restored to its former glory. Just like those days of old, the family name will be there to witness all of the activity.
"I'm excited about the name staying," Lancaster said. "I think it'll be neat. We feel very blessed to have people doing what they're doing and thinking about us. They asked us if we were mad about it, but we're honored."