Description: The proposed development of the former Brown & Williamson property and the Star Tobacco property have enormous potential for the revitalization of downtown Petersburg. Simply put, it could be the largest<br /><br /><br />private project for the city in decades.<br />Franklin Development Group, the Richmond-based partnership proposing the project, envisions a mix of upscale apartments, rows of new retail shops, a restaurant, a fitness center and a brand new parking deck.<br /><br />The total investment of more than $100 million proposed by Franklin would transform the nearly seven-acre property from the one- time industrial heart of the city that has been largely dormant for more than 20 years to a thriving residential and business area.<br /><br />If the project becomes reality, that section of Market Street will become the new hot spot of town since it will be located near the about-to-be-opened Petersburg Station -- a xxx million project - - and the soon-to-be built Petersburg Library, a xxx million project<br /><br />Thomas Wilkinson of the development group said work should begin as early as the first quarter of next year.<br /><br />Recently, Petersburg City Council gave its blessing to the project by approving changes in zoning following two public hearings last night. Petersburg's Planning Commission unanimously voted in March to recommend approval of the two projects.<br /><br />The plan to transform the property would take place in several stages. Wilkinson said the work would begin with the A-B Building which is located at the corner of Wythe and Perry streets. That would be turned into about 142 loft-style apartments with exposed brick, high-end steel appliances and wood floors. The apartments would be between 500 square feet for a 1-bedroom unit that would rent for about $850 a month to 900 square feet for a 2-bedroom unit that would rent for about $1,200 a month.<br /><br />A space between the A and B sides of the building would be used for a swimming pool and fitness center. The conversion of that building would begin as soon as next year. Other stages of development would follow with one proceeding each year.<br /><br />Other stages of the development including revitalization of the Brown Building that would be either multi-family development or offices. A third stage would include conversion of what's known as the Cameron building -- site of a Civil War hospital -- into residential and office space. Wilkinson said a fourth floor which previously existed on the building would be added back.<br /><br />Stage four would see the development of a 10,000-square-foot space fronting Market Street into a retail or restaurant site.<br /><br />Depending on demand, plans call for 10 for-sale townhouses fronting Market Street. A final stage of development would see a parking deck structure constructed fronting Wythe Street that would include retail and office space.<br /><br />The project is not the only one slated for a former tobacco complex.<br /><br />That project -- one block away on South Market Street between Wythe and Washington streets -- is backed by a different development group. Originally owned by Brown & Williamson, the property was bought in the 1990s by another cigarette maker, Star Scientific Inc.<br /><br />Mike Glass, speaking for 2J's and 1A LLC said that the site would start with development of 75 apartments, a mix of one and two bedroom units. Later development would depend on demand.<br /><br />The Brown and Williamson project entails six stages that wouldn't be completed until 2015 -- the 150th anniversary of the fall of Petersburg during the Civil War. It would be a wonderful coincidence if a major project that would put an exclamation point on the rebirth of the city would fall on the anniversary of Petersburg's fall in 1865.