SALISBURY — Developers for the River’s Edge apartment project updated the Salisbury City Council last week on the progress they have made since last appearing over the winter.

A very tentative construction date of September 2014 was floated. Additionally, developers asked if the city might want to explore further partnerships involving River’s Edge, such as a Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) plan as well as assisting in making the development more accessible for the permanently disabled.

“We’re making progress with our investors, lenders and the state as well,” Andrew Hanson, a developer with Osprey Property Company, told the council. “In fact, we just received conceptual approval from the planning commission last month just based on still trying to work on some housekeeping issues as it relates to some critical areas as well.”

Osprey will be responsible for developing the apartment complex, which they are advertising as an “artist’s community.” Their intent is to give preference for rooms to artists as well as to provide community space that will lend itself to things like concerts, art lessons and small theatre productions. 
It’s a unique idea and has a number of challenges, Hanson admitted.

“We have not done an arts community before so we’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out how the arts aspect,” he said, “not so much just the residents but the other spaces there, should look and feel.”

Though the arts angle has received a lot of attention during the development process, Hanson stressed that only a “preference” will be given to artists and people who aren’t identified as such may have the opportunity to live in the space. He also underlined that the definition of “artist” that will be used will be very broad and flexible.

Besides catering to the arts community, Hanson told the council that River’s Edge continues to seek ways to assist the disabled in the around Salisbury. Recently, Osprey was offered about $200,000 by the Weinberg Foundation to go towards lowering rents on several apartments. Those rooms would be for the permanently disabled only and would not be part of the complex’s overall artist preference theme. Unfortunately, Hanson explained that for the disability project to be feasible around $500,000 would be necessary to make up for lost rent as well as potential vacancies.

“There’s an obvious benefit to that and some obvious challenges,” he said of the foundation’s offer.

Even if the total funding can’t be found, Hanson promised that River’s Edge will still be an asset to the disabled in the community. On the complex’s first floor, 10 rooms will be designed specifically to be totally handicap accessible. The remaining eight rooms on the first floor will be built in such a way that they could be easily adapting for a handicapped renter.

Hanson mentioned other areas where he hopes the council will be able to help River’s Edge moving forward. The initial expense of development will be significant, especially since demolition will be required for the partially built structure that currently resides at the proposed River’s Edge location on Fitzwater Street.

“To the extent that the city has some mechanism that can help us with that we would be thrilled to hear about it,” said Hanson.

Specifically, Osprey would be interested in a reduction in real estate taxes through some kind of PILOT plan with the city.

“It would be worthwhile to think about if that’s something the city would like to provide,” Hanson said. “And so the next few steps from here will be receiving comments from public works, receiving final site plan and planning commission approval and basically from there, having closing and acquiring the real estate and knocking down that building.”

Construction is “getting closer,” he added.

Council President Jake Day, who joined the council this spring and has not been present for other discussions regarding River’s Edge, told Hanson that it was an impressive project and the current timeline looks good.

“I think that everybody here is excited to see this timeline. It’s the first time that I’ve seen a timeline related to the project and my fingers are crossed for you,” said Day.

The construction completion date of September 2014 is the target, agreed Hanson, but is only a projection and may have to be altered as the process moves forward.

“It’s a tough site,” said Hanson. “It’s a re-development of a half-built project.”

Councilman Tim Spies thanked Hanson for the update and said that the council would be willing to discuss any options for assistance that Osprey would like to request. Councilwoman Laura Mitchell felt the same.

“You’ve got a lot of options available and we’ve got a lot of options available to help … that is a horrid site,” she told Hanson, “and we certainly want to see something better since this is a really useful project for the community and really gives back.”