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Posted March 14, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Shoe shine: OakCrest looks to restore luster on city building

Jim Vickers, founder and CEO of OakCrest Cos.
Jim Vickers, founder and CEO of OakCrest Cos., stands inside the doorway of the second floor of The Lovett Building on the Loudoun Street Pedestrian Mall on Friday. The company plans to renovate the ground floor of the historic building for use as commercial space and the upper levels as apartments. Rich Cooley/Daily

The Lovett Building
Pedestrians pass the outside of The Lovett Building at 165 N. Loudoun St. on Friday. Rich Cooley/Daily

old bathtub
An old bathtub sits in a vacant bathroom in one of the upstairs apartments. Rich Cooley/Daily

By James Heffernan

jheffernan@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- OakCrest Cos. unveiled plans on Friday to restore The Lovett Building on the downtown walking mall.

The vacant three-story building, which dates to 1881, will be redeveloped to include office/retail space on the ground floor and apartments on the second and third floors.

The plans are part of OakCrest's larger goal of helping revitalize the city's downtown.

"By restoring historical buildings in downtown, these investments will mean a better quality of life for Winchester families and economic development opportunities for Winchester businesses," said Vaughn Foura, president of the company's Construction, Land Development & Property Investment divisions.

OakCrest held a press conference on site Friday, followed by guided tours of the building.

The Lovett Building is OakCrest's third historic restoration project. The firm recently combined its operations under one roof in the former Lewis Jones Knitting Mill -- built in 1895 -- at 126 N. Kent St.

The Lovett Building, at 165 N. Loudoun St., has had a number of uses over the years, including a warehouse, pool room, tobacco shop, silent movie theater and cafe, but it is best known as the site of Lovett Brothers shoe store. In 1932, Harry L. Lovett relocated the business to the main floor of the building, where it remained until its closing in 1983.

Harry Lovett's wife, Lee Snyder Lovett, maintained a law office in the building beside the shoe store at 163 N. Loudoun St. for 40 years, beginning in 1947. A fire consumed the top floors of The Lovett Building in 1971, and the upper floor was never rebuilt. More recently, an art gallery and the athletic outfitter Runners Retreat occupied the first floor.

OakCrest purchased the property in July 2005 for $525,000, and will put an estimated $600,000 into renovations.

The project will also take advantage of approximately $240,000 in historic tax credits through the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

The state's Rehabilitation Tax Credit program provides historic property owners an income tax credit on 25 percent of their eligible expenses, and an additional 20 percent credit is available through the federal program.

"In this economy, it is one of the most powerful catalysts for reinvestment in a community," said Julie Langan, director of resources services and review for VDHR.

Frank Wright, president of Preservation for Historic Winchester, said historic districts shouldn't be an impediment to development. Such districts allow for the use of state and federal funds, which he said were instrumental in the restoration of the Lewis Jones Knitting Mill and the George Washington Hotel.

PHW would like to assist homeowners and property owners in the city's historic district with the application process, Wright said.

Langan said the cooperation shown between the city, PHW and VDHR can serve as a model for other communities.

The redevelopment plans for the Lovett Building were approved last year, and OakCrest crews have begun clearing debris and making structural improvements to the building. Beginning in April, workers will restore the brick, windows, walls, ceilings and plumbing, as well as rebuild the storefront.

Phase 4 will focus on interior finishes, such as plaster repair, trim work and paint, cabinetry, and flooring, while Phase 5 will make improvements to the exterior of the building, including a patio and walkway in the rear courtyard.

Project manager John Barker said the renovations are scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.

Barker said there are no tenants yet for the commercial space, but OakCrest is open to "whatever the needs are" in the community.

The building's four apartments, which range from 700 to 1,000 square feet, will rent for between $800 and $1,000 a month, he said.

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