Renovation of two historic Dalton buildings had to be put on hold for more than a year while the developer waited for state and federal approval, but Barrett Properties President Bob Caperton says he's ready to move forward with the first project, converting the former Belk building at 307 S. Hamilton St. into apartments.
After that project is underway, he can focus more closely on renovating the historic railroad depot at 110 Depot St.
"We are excited to announce that the Belk-Gallant project has made significant strides in the last couple of months and we are close to starting construction," Caperton said. "The tax credit process has taken longer than we ever anticipated. We applied for state and federal historic preservation tax credits in June of 2019 and navigated that process until we received final approval from National Park Service in November of 2020. We are currently awaiting revised drawings from our architect that will reflect the conditions set forth in our approval."
Caperton said after he receives the final drawings he can hire a contractor to work on the Belk project.
"We plan to immediately move forward with the revitalization of the Dalton depot after releasing the Belk development to a contractor," he said. "The depot, like the Belk-Gallant building, is a tax credit project, so, it too, will not be fast-paced. However, we prioritize the outcome of these projects over the time frame and we feel both will be successful."
State and federal approval of any plans for the depot are needed because the depot, built in 1852 by the Western&Atlantic Railroad, is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Caperton said the Belk project should be finished about six months after the contractor starts work. He did not give a timetable for the depot.
The 20,000-square-foot building at 307 S. Hamilton St. in downtown Dalton opened in 1941 as a Belk department store. More recently, the building housed the offices of state probation services.
The building will have 18 apartments, two of them two bedroom and the rest will be single bedroom. It will also have a commercial space of about 750 square feet on the first floor facing Hamilton Street.
Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce President Rob Bradham welcomed news that the Belk project is moving forward.
"If we want downtown Dalton to be the best it can be, we need additional residences in our downtown footprint," he said. "The redevelopment of the Belk building definitely helps us accomplish that goal. We applaud Mr. Caperton for taking this risk and sticking with this project. It’ll have a tremendous impact on downtown Dalton."
The City Council approved a $300,000 bid from Dalton's Barrett Properties for the depot in October 2018. Barrett was the only company to bid on the building when the council put it up for sale.
The city closed the depot in November 2015, citing conditions that “posed potential health hazards to the public,” including mold. The building has remained empty since. Before that, it was the home for some 25 years of the Dalton Depot & Trackside Tavern restaurant.
According to the company’s proposal, the renovated depot will house two distinct businesses, a restaurant in the northern section and a bar in the southern section. The grand opening was listed as Dec. 31, 2020.
Some City Council members said Friday they understand that Barrett Properties' failure to make deadlines was out of the company's control.
"We looked into it, and everything was backlogged at the state level, and that really kept him from moving forward," said City Councilman Tyree Goodlett.
City Councilwoman Annalee Harlan said in retrospect the sale agreement should have had provisions for delays caused by regulatory hurdles.
"The spirit of the agreement was that the buyer would not just sit on the building for 10 or 15 years," she said. "The depot is in the heart of the city, and we want to have something in there. I believe that is still Mr. Caperton's goal and he is abiding by the spirit of the agreement."
Harlan said when Barrett Properties has a more concrete idea of how long work on the depot will take it might be appropriate for the sides to revisit their agreement and create an addendum or a memorandum of understanding setting a timetable for the work.