The area to the sides of North Limestone's Embrace Church Epworth campus is not particularly inviting now.
On one side next to 1015 North Limestone is a patch of undeveloped ground opening onto North Broadway Park; on the other side is the former church parsonage, some brackish land and a parking lot. The whole parcel seems to draw stormwater like a summer picnic draws ants.
A grim sight? Not to developer Bruce Nicol, who jokingly dubs the two patches "Lake Loudon" and "Lake Limestone."
Nicol envisions a two-building apartment complex — one building on each side of the church — with 80 studio and one-bedroom apartments. The units would be priced between $400-$700 a month, utilities included, and run from 300-500 square feet. The target market, Nicol says, is "someone who wants to be in an architecturally interesting, up-and-coming area."
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The Arlington Studios, tentatively set to open in summer 2016, will be a $6 million investment, Nicol says. He thinks the property will be an apartment solution for those who want to live near downtown, Bluegrass Community and Technical College and New Circle Road, and in the booming North Limestone corridor (NoLi, as the neighborhood has dubbed itself).
He and others involved in the project have been seeking community input and say that the surrounding area has been supportive of the plan.
Nicol and project architect Van Meter Pettit envision solving the drainage problems with a vast underground cistern that will hold stormwater and slowly release it into the city's stormwater system.
Pettit says the apartments are going for the LEED environmental-friendly certification, and particular attention will be paid to having lots of natural light and good interior air quality.
"This business model is ideal for developing an energy-efficient building while managing the project," Pettit says. "Using sustainable principles on multi-family housing, it's a good fit. We're building safe, comfortable, affordable housing."
The idea behind the two buildings and their modest three- and four-story heights is that they look as if they fit in with the church, rather than overpower it, Pettit says.
The plan goes before the city's planning commission for approval on Nov. 20.
Nicol and Pettit are hopeful about its chances for passage. The Arlington Studios project is, they point out, exactly the kind of innovative infill the city has been encouraging — and will generate tax revenue for two land parcels not now contributing to the city's tax base.
Although the project will take some of the church's parking, Embrace has arranged with Arlington Elementary School, just across North Limestone, for overflow parking. The school, in place since the early 20th century, just had its own face lift: Its most recent renovation was completed in 2010.