Downtown has become one of Danville’s most vibrant neighborhoods, thanks to the conversion of empty second-story spaces into loft apartments and condominiums – cool spaces that combine small-town charm with urban amenities.
“We’re talking about second-story homes with amenities that would rival anything in San Francisco or New York,” says Charlie Raffay, manager and owner of Redwood Property Management. “Downtown is a really cool place to live.”
The initiative to find new uses for those unused upper stories is being led by the Heart of Danville Main Street Program, which aims to revitalize the neighborhood while preserving its historic character. With residents living above, stores and restaurants will be attracted to the spaces at street level, creating an exciting, livable neighborhood where residents can conveniently walk to work, entertainment and shops.
“There’s been an effort to breathe new life into downtown,” said Dr. Gareth Barkin, Ph.D., a professor at nearby Centre College. Barkin recently leased an apartment on Main Street that reminds him of living in the San Francisco Bay area.
“If you look out the window of my apartment, it looks like you live in a city. The dream is that the rest of the street will follow,” Barkin says.
Modern Downtown Living
Downtown living is especially attractive to college students and professionals who move to Danville from large cities to pursue educational and work opportunities, said Lisa LeDonne. She and her husband, Tim, restored and renovated the building and created the 2,300-square-foot “Boston-style” apartment where Barkin lives.
“Local businesses are recruiting people from other areas of the country and even other countries,” Lisa LeDonne says. “We feel we are on the cusp of something huge.”
The building was in poor condition when the LeDonnes purchased it. Its upper two stories had been vacant for 90 years. Their restoration was so thorough and historically accurate that today the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“When we started, people said we were crazy, there was nothing like this downtown,” she says. “Now people say ‘Wow! When are you going to do another one?’”
Historic touches such as exposed brick and original windows – combined with such modern conveniences as stainless steel appliances, environmentally friendly bamboo flooring and a custom steel staircase – add a unique feel to his downtown apartment, Barkin says. The area’s historic buildings make it possible to blend the historic and the new, Raffay says.
His condominiums feature exposed brick, 17-foot ceilings, hardwood floors, stainless appliances and whirlpool spas in the master bath.
“Great urban views and convenience – that’s what people are looking for,” Raffay says.