By MICAH HENRY
A local political party signed a deal this week to sell an area development company its downtown building, which will be renovated and be partially converted into housing.
Gruppo ETICO’s managing partner Dennis LaCaria and Alexander County Republican Party Chair Jack Simms signed a sales agreement on Tuesday, November 12, 2019, for the party to sell its historic downtown building to ETICO, a Charlotte-based developer. ETICO’s aim is to create a vibrant downtown economy in places like Taylorsville, Cherryville, and other towns in which they have development projects, while offering housing units downtown that are within financial reach of local residents.
The Republican Party will retain its footprint in the building with a 99-year lease of part of the facility for $1 per year.
Simms noted during the GOP’s Tuesday meeting the parties have agreed upon a purchase price of $23,000 and will provide the GOP a $30/sq. ft. allowance on the 3,300 sq. ft. building (about $50,000) for renovation.
The party’s tenant, Flower and Gift Shop, will remain in place with a series of two consecutive five-year lease agreements.
ETICO will rename the building at a later date; it will retain a mention of the Republican Party headquarters.
The upper floor of the building will be converted into apartments, likely six units, some as one bedroom and others as studio units. Rent prices will be kept affordable and will be income-based for this market; however, government subsidy (Section 8) will not be accepted on rent payments.
Built about 1904 or 1905, the structure has been known for many years as the Bell Building. At various times, it housed Duke Power, Ray Jennings law office, the law office of Tressie Pierce Boyd, Dr. Ralph Herman’s dental office, and Ida’s Hat Shop, among others. For some time in the 1950s, the building also housed the North Carolina Republican Party Headquarters, when Ray Jennings was state party chairman.
The Republican Party purchased the building in 2001 for $85,000 from the Sitler family. Party officers who took part in the 2001 signing included three present at Tuesday’s event: Bill Randlett, Travis Wike, and Exie Robinette. Simms honored the trio for their part in the purchase with award plaques.
Simms noted the sale to ETICO would help the party by solving several problems. It would remove from the GOP’s hands the costs of plumbing and other issues which have plagued the building, eliminate the party’s responsibility for tax and insurance on the structure, and would allow monetary donations to be used for campaigns, instead of building upkeep and loan payments. The payment amount would more than pay off the Republican Party’s loan.
“One of the things that a Republican Party needs is to be stable. You need to be in the same location, so people will know where you are,” said Simms.
LaCaria stated that Gruppo ETICO is looking forward to development of the building as a start to revitalizing Taylorsville’s downtown area.
“We are a company that was formed with the guiding principle of delivering housing that people can afford, without need of any ongoing subsidies or voucher acceptance,” LaCaria said. “We think that’s going to be the key to revitalizing downtown Taylorsville. We need residents downtown in order to drive other businesses. As well as for people to have a place to live, they’re going to want to know where they’re dry cleaner is. They’re going to want to know where their veterinarian is, where the restaurant is. All those things are driven by residential development. So, we’re starting with residences. That’s going to be the driver for the next set of changes we’ll see in Taylorsville,” LaCaria said.
“We going to ensure that the people who are going to be working in those dry cleaners or other businesses are going to be able to live close to those businesses. We’re really excited about being part of this project. We’re really excited about being here in Taylorsville,” LaCaria added.