Architect-builder Tom Cheek says he will begin construction in April on four $1.5 million townhouses at the corner of West High and Jefferson streets beside Rupp Arena — and every one of them has been sold.
In fact, Cheek said, he has two people on a waiting list and hopes to build two more units if he can persuade city officials to let him acquire a piece of an adjacent park.
The development, called West High Park, is on a lot that has been vacant since the circa 1818 Watt-Saunier house burned 23 years ago. The site overlooks the Lexington Center’s Cox Street parking lot, which is planned for redevelopment into an expanded Lexington Center and Town Branch Commons park.
“I’ve been working on this for a long time,” said Cheek, who for 25 years has lived across the street in a Victorian home that he and his wife, Fran Taylor, restored. His office is next door.
The 3,000-square-foot townhouses will include first-floor, rear-entry garages and three stories of living space fronting High Street. The limestone-clad exteriors will resemble traditional European architecture.
The base price for each unit is $1.3 million to $1.6 million, with the price rising depending on upgrades. Buyers can customize the three- or four-bedroom interiors, and 800-square-foot terraces on the top floor of each unit.
There is strong demand for downtown apartments, but the condominium market has been slow for a decade, in part because of overbuilding before the recession. “But there’s nothing else like this” downtown, Cheek said.
He declined to identify the prospective buyers. But he said five are local and one is from West Virginia. Cheek said all of the buyers are individuals, not companies.
Cheek said he had been eying the hillside lot since it sold a year after the fire for $26,400. He and his business partner, R. David Slone, formed West High Park LLC last year and bought the property from developer Don Wathen for $275,000.
“It’s a really complicated piece of property,” said Cheek, who is both architect and builder for the project. “But I think this is the right scale and the right location, and it will be an appropriate buffer for the neighborhood.”
Cheek and Slone have worked with Jim Moore of Keller Williams Realty to sell the townhouses in advance, and with city officials to navigate the site’s many issues, including an old street easement, the adjacent Lexington Center property and the Jefferson Street bridge, which the city has plans to remove.
Cheek said the city has issued a building permit for the project. The property is outside the Woodward Heights historic district, which covers a neighborhood of 19th-century homes that escaped demolition in 1974 when the Rupp Arena parking lot was built.
Cheek said he would eventually like to build two more units next door if he can work out an arrangement with the city for the end of tiny Woodward Heights Park, a sliver of land between High Street and a former section of Manchester Street that is now an access ramp for the Cox Street lot. If allowed to build at the end of the park, Cheek said, he would landscape the rest as a public park. So far, he said, discussions with city officials have been positive.