New apartments downtown Mount Vernon

Over the next nine months, the second and third floors of the building on the southeast corner of South Main Street and East Gambier Street in downtown Mount Vernon will be renovated into upscale apartments. The apartments (16 in total) will be donated to three local institutions: Kenyon College, Mount Vernon Nazarene University and Knox Community Hospital.

MOUNT VERNON – Construction will begin this week on a project that’s expected to bring 16 upper-level apartments to downtown Mount Vernon.

According to Dan Houser, project coordinator with Shrock Premier Construction, crews will begin tearing up concrete and building interior foundations, installing structural walls, and building an elevator shaft “toward the end of this week” on the second and third floors of the buildings on the southeast corner of South Main Street and East Gambier Street.

The existing space will ultimately be renovated into upscale, loft-style apartments, which will then be donated to three local institutions: Knox Community Hospital, Mount Vernon Nazarene University and Kenyon College.

Of the 16 total apartments, spread across four buildings (200-206 South Main Street), The Ariel Foundation Director Jen Odenweller said eight will be donated to Kenyon College, four will be donated to Mount Vernon Nazarene University and four will be donated to Knox Community Hospital. The apartments will be used as upscale, transitional housing for university faculty and medical providers.

The Ariel Foundation has provided a grant for the project, covering renovation costs and exterior improvements, and Cornerstone Commerce Centre LLC has donated the top two floors of the four corner buildings. The project was announced last November.

New downtown apartments rendering

This rendering, which was featured in the Ariel Foundation's November 2018 press release, was created by Sol Harris Day Architecture.

Odenweller told Knox Pages this week that the goal is to have the project completed by the end of June 2020, so that Kenyon College and MVNU will be able to utilize the space in July and August as they enter the 2020-21 academic year.

“We, along with many others in Mount Vernon, are excited to see this project take shape and are grateful to the first-floor tenants who are living through the process,” Odenweller said in an email. “This project will quickly take shape with some exterior work occurring in the near future, interior work throughout the winter, and come spring, when the outside facade is addressed, the community will see this revitalization effort transform to enhance the downtown landscape.”

Construction crews have spent the summer completing the interior demolition process, Houser said, which included knocking down interior walls and cleaning out the upper-level spaces. This week will mark the official beginning of the construction phase, which is expected to last approximately nine months.

Houser said there will be some “minor” road closures next spring, when construction crews will re-do the building’s front facade.

“There will be times where we’ll have to go to one lane probably at certain periods,” he said, “but we’ll try to keep it pretty minimum.”

Odenweller described the project as a “significant grant investment” for The Ariel Foundation, “one that has been in the works for quite some time.” Odenweller did not disclose a price for the project, instead stating “this investment is not about a dollar figure.”

“Rather, it is a deep commitment to our downtown and a driver for expanding the community’s social fabric through co-location of individuals and families who are connected to three unique community partners, Kenyon College, Mount Vernon Nazarene University and Knox Community Hospital,” Odenweller continued. “The Lofts are a mix of one and two-bedroom condominiums.”

This project is viewed by developers as a “pivotal economic development strategy for expanding housing available in the downtown area.”

Downtown Mount Vernon has seen significant growth over the past decade, as restaurants, shops and university classrooms have filled once-vacant storefronts. The Woodward Opera House reopened in January, following a 20-year, $21 million restoration effort.

This growth in commerce, however, has presented the need for downtown living opportunities. That’s where The Ariel Foundation stepped in.

“The downtown area is becoming an even more inviting entertainment space – you know, after hours, weekends, cultural, arts-related,” Odenweller said in December. “And with so many developments happening in recent years, it just seemed like this is the right place and right time to explore really using a very underutilized asset in the community, which is upper-level housing spaces.”

Developers hope this increase in upper-level housing will “serve as the stimulus for developing more downtown housing and retail establishments,” The Ariel Foundation’s initial press release stated. The apartments will resemble “condo-style settings often found in larger cities.”

While the top two floors of the corner buildings will be renovated, the five street-level businesses – La Paloma (200 South Main Street), FitMix Nutrition Studio (202 South Main Street), Hunnicut’s Jewelry (204 South Main Street), Y-Not Cycling & Fitness (206 South Main Street) and Pine Row Studio (10 East Gambier Street) – will remain in place. Owners from all five businesses have expressed support for the housing project, citing the opportunity to gain new customers and improve the downtown district.

“I’ve met a lot of the other business owners that have come down here, and anything we can do to drive more traffic down here is going to be good for everybody,” FitMix co-owner Brandon Britton said last winter. “Having places to live up here is awesome.”


» Downtown Mount Vernon to see increase in upper-level housing (November 2018)

» Renovated downtown apartments to house college faculty, medical providers (December 2018)

» Street-level business owners prepare to adjust for upper-level renovation project (December 2018)

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Staff Reporter

Grant is a 2018 graduate of Ohio Northern University, where he studied journalism and played basketball. He likes coffee, books and minor league baseball. He loves telling stories and has a passion for local news.