Land near Lee Bridge rezoned for development

The 2.2-acre site at the southern end of the Lee Bridge. (Greg Montalto)

The site of a stalled apartment project just south of Belle Isle is getting a fresh look from a local developer.

The undeveloped 2.2-acre tract at the southern end of the Lee Bridge, on the west side of Cowardin Avenue beside Riverside Drive, was rezoned last week for a residential development that could consist of housing including single-family homes, duplexes and multifamily buildings.

The rezoning, to the city’s RF-2 Riverfront District, was requested by Jeremy Connell, the local developer behind such Manchester projects as the under-construction 7west townhomes at the foot of the downriver Manchester Bridge.

Connell is under contract to purchase the rezoned property from Northwood Ravin, a North Carolina-based development firm that purchased the land in 2011, picking up a stalled project called Manchester on the James that previously was approved for 200 apartment units.

That project never materialized.

Northwood Ravin attempted to unload the property in 2013, and listed it again in 2016 with a $2.3 million asking price. The land never sold and was taken off the market before Connell said he approached the firm with an offer about 18 months ago. An agreement was reached and a contract signed last year, and Connell said he expects to close on the property this fall.

A call to Northwood Ravin vice president Michael Gribble was not returned. Gribble was listed on the rezoning application under the ownership entity for the property, NR Manchester LLC, which paid about $1 million for the land in 2011.

The property consists of five parcels at 1701 Stonewall Ave., 700 Cowardin Ave. and 701, 705 and 715 W. 19th St. A city assessment most recently valued the parcels at a combined $2.76 million.

While no plans have been set, Connell said he envisions a multifamily development with a for-sale component, with views of the city skyline, Belle Isle and Hollywood Cemetery.

The undeveloped site at 700 Cowardin Ave. (Jonathan Spiers)

Like with 7west, he said, those views and proximity to downtown drew him to the property and would be a selling point for development.

The parcels’ previous zoning was a mix of light industrial, business and multifamily residential districts. Connell said the rezoning under one district would allow a more cohesive development.

“It was a hodgepodge of zoning on those parcels, and now we have them all under one set of zoning regulations,” he said.

“That was a big purpose of doing the rezoning, to get it so it could be developed in some cohesive manner under one set of regulations.”

The RF-2 zoning allows for buildings up to 13 stories. Proffers included with the rezoning restrict building heights along 19th Street to 35 feet.

The property is adjacent to the 50-unit Belle Summit Apartments and Weinstein Properties’ 2000 Riverside Apartments. It lies within a neighborhood district called Springhill, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The rezoning received no opposition from the Springhill Neighborhood Association, which met with Connell and submitted a letter to the city stating it had no objection. Local planning consultant Lory Markham represented Connell in the application process.

Connell said he does not have a timeframe for development but is aiming to get started in 2019.

Meanwhile, he said 7west is wrapping up, with 10 of the 12 townhomes under contract and construction on track for completion in September.

Next door to that project, two parcels along West Seventh Street are being floated for development. Across Cowardin from the Springhill site, fellow Manchester developers Robin Miller and Dan Gecker have sought to sell a chunk of land at 1401 Semmes Ave.

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