Manchester Street has seen a boom in dining, drinking and entertainment. The question has long been: Where are the walking-distance apartments that will complete the package?
A housing plan filed with the Urban County Planning Commission recently calls for 255 housing units across three buildings on Manchester.
Barry McNees, who owns the rickhouse and has been working to revitalize the Pepper campus area, said he and a new group of partners are proposing a new housing development.
“It’s an exciting proposal; it builds on the energy that’s been evolving in the distillery district over the last few years, and it provides a lot of things that could energize the area ... both in terms of residential and parking,” McNees said.
Michael Fite, owner of F2 Companies of Dublin, Ohio, plans to develop the residential floors of the rickhouse and two new buildings, according his attorney, Jacob Walbourn of McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie & Kirkland in Lexington. Fite has developed several student housing complexes, including in Lexington where he was involved in Newtown Crossing. Fite also has experience with planned communities and mixed-use development.
Fite credited to his daughter Helen “for discovering this opportunity,” in an email Thursday. During a visit to Lexington, the two went to Crank and Boom Ice Cream Lounge on Manchester Street, “and we all fell in love with the place and the atmosphere. I noticed the Pepper building and was excited about the possibilities.”
The trend seen in cities “is the desire for people to live where they can walk to amenities and are in close proximity to a more urban lifestyle. ... I also believe this project will become a catalyst for more residential developments in the district and potentially the urban core of Lexington,” he said.
His company is preparing design concepts and does not yet have a projected building cost. However, he added that construction of the project will likely start in spring or summer 2019.
The project will involve building 135 apartments on floors two through five of 1170 Manchester, the rickhouse building. That will include 16 loft units, 76 one-bedrooms, and 43 two-bedrooms.
According to the plan, two buildings will be built at 1158 Manchester, in the lot to the east of the five-story former bourbon barrel rickhouse.
At the “west” building next door, the plan calls for 48 one-bedroom apartments on four floors. The adjacent “east” building will have 72 one-bedroom apartments on four floors.
The two smaller buildings will together include 170 garage parking spaces on the ground floor and on an elevated parking level.
The plan is likely to make it to the main planning commission docket on Nov. 8, according to Traci Wade, planning manager.
Walbourn said that he does not anticipate problems getting planning commission approval.
“I think this is the kind of project the planning commission has looked favorably upon,” he said. “It’s not a zone change .. it’s infill development, providing residential density, not displacing any neighbors who might have opposition. Obviously the biggest challenge in Distillery District is the floodplain issue but Michael’s very familiar with them.”
The residential proposal comes as several businesses are working on moving into the ground floor of the rickhouse building.
Battle Axes, a bar that features axe-throwing pits, is scheduled to open later this month. Fusion Brewing is moving into one creekside corner; Wise Bird Cider is moving into the other. On the end of the building along Manchester, there will be Bloom, a coffeehouse and co-working space; Relic, a vintage and one-of-a-kind furniture retail store; and Massage Strong massage studio.