After a delay caused by some structural design changes, the Lofts at Navicent in downtown Macon is beginning to rise out of the dirt.
The $20 million project includes an 88,000-square-foot, five-story building at 781 Spring St. at Rose Park. It is one of several downtown loft projects that have been developed or are being developed by Macon-based Sierra Development Group and built by Piedmont Construction, also based in Macon.
Jim Daws, owner of Sierra Development, had predicted last summer that construction could begin this past fall, but design changes slowed down the schedule.
“We were trying to come up with the best design ... from a structural standpoint,” Daws said. “We basically went from an all-wood frame ... (to) the first, second and third floors are all poured ... concrete. And the top three floors are wood frame. ... It was really a change in the structural design that caused some delay.”
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Work underway last week on the 1.5-acre site included forming the first floor and columns to support the second floor.
“We really hope within maybe 60 days to maybe topping out, weather permitting,” he said. A building is topped out when workers reach the roof.
Construction is expected to take about 15 months to complete.
“Everything is now on schedule,” Daws said. “We’re real excited, and it’s been great working with the hospital.”
The Lofts at Navicent is being built for Navicent Health. It will include dining and retail facilities and a leasing office on the first floor and medical offices and a fitness center for hospital employees on the second floor. The remaining three floors would have 60 one- and two-bedroom apartments. The units will range from 800 square feet to 1,000 square feet.
“Our expectation is that Navicent Health employees, physicians, hospital residents, interns and students in health-related fields will occupy the 60 loft units,” Vice President of System Support Services Tim Slocum said in an email. “As a regional and state healthcare hub, Navicent Health already attracts people to work in Macon. Through The Lofts at Navicent, we will begin attracting people to live in Macon’s urban core as well.”
Some of the people who will fill the apartments may come from other downtown units or from the suburbs, Daws said. But that won’t create any occupancy issues, he said. Downtown still needs more apartments to meet the demand.
A 2012 market study commissioned by NewTown Macon showed there was enough demand for 200 new lofts every year for seven years. More than 70 percent of those living downtown are young singles and couples without children.
The Lofts at Navicent project includes a parking deck for 100 vehicles. The deck is close to the existing Yellow parking deck, which is accessed from Forsyth Street.
“On the second floor, we will have a pedestrian bridge that connects with the Yellow parking deck which connects to an existing pedestrian bridge” over Spring Street to the main hospital, Daws said. “People will be able to get from the heart tower over to our building without having to step on the street.”
The project includes about 20,000 square feet for medical offices.
“We are planning to use this area for an employee clinic and for a health and wellness center that would be available to Navicent Health employees and those who live at The Lofts at Navicent,” Slocum said.
The retail portion on the first floor would include shops and restaurants open to the public.
“We are working closely with Jim Daws and Sierra Development to ensure that we utilize this space in a manner that best supports the College Hill and InTown neighborhoods, our community and its economy,” Slocum said.
Daws said he has gotten a letter of intent from Jimmy John’s, a chain sandwich shop, for a spot. He said he also would like to see a coffee shop in the building. There is enough room for four or five retailers, depending on the size.
The hospital is “open 24/7 and they don’t take holidays, ... so it’s a unique opportunity for any retailer,” Daws said.