New plan for Lebanon neighborhood redevelopment moves forward

The city and a local developer are planning to redevelop a vacant, 1.5-acre downtown block.

City staff and developer Mike Williams are working out a deal expected to help revive the Pleasant Square neighborhood, on the north edge of the historic downtown, with new town homes.

The city purchased the property in the 1990s and demolished homes there.

“It’s long overdue,” Councilwoman Krista Wyatt said after Williams’ May 5 presentation.

The land — a block east of Broadway, the city’s main north-south boulevard — was part of an area to be redeveloped by the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The plan also called for the church to be rebuilt to replace one demolished by a fire.

Instead, the church is planning to rebuild expanded church facilities nearby on property acquired from the city. Church officials did not respond to requests for comment on the new redevelopment plan.

RELATED: Redevelopment plan includes historic Lebanon church damaged by fire

“This project is part of the city’s overall efforts to meet the demand for new residential opportunities in our downtown district. Over the past several years, we have seen an increase in the number of people who want to live in the downtown area and take advantage of all the great amenities that we have to offer,” City Manager Scott Brunka said in an email.

Earlier this month, the city council directed staff to work out a development agreement, likely to include the city turning over the land to Williams for $1, and for 10 years, forgiving half the property taxes for buyers of the homes.

Plans call for 18 homes, valued in the mid-$300,000-to-$400,000 range, to be built over 18 months to three years off North Mechanic Street between New and Pleasant streets.

Williams was the sole respondent to a request for proposals to redevelop the land, according to city officials.

The city would turn a vacant lot between Broadway and the town homes into a walking path, connecting it to a development corridor leading south to the downtown district and north past redevelopment of the former city garage as town homes and apartments fronted by retail and bars-restaurants.

Large trees tower over the proposed Pleasant Square town-home block.

“The development will have to comply with the city’s landscaping requirements, which include preserving as many trees as possible, as well as planting new trees if necessary,” Brunka added. “A neighborhood meeting regarding the proposed project will also be conducted once the stay-at-home orders are lifted”.

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On May 5, Williams, a Lebanon High graduate with several area housing developments, urged the city council to agree to the plan.

“Transforming this currently vacant property into new town homes of quality construction will offer residents a walk-able interface with all of re-imagined downtown Lebanon,” Williams wrote in his proposal.

“With plans to incorporate classic architectural styles consistent with the area’s surrounding historical buildings, we believe our project will be a catalyst for growth without disrupting the historic charm that the city and its residents have worked so hard to preserve.”

Mayor Amy Brewer expressed support for “something that is positive for our city.” Other neighborhood homes have also been rehabilitated.

“You’re going to set the mark for continued redevelopment in that area,” Brewer said.

Wyatt remembered Williams as a Pee Wee Football player.

“It’s great you’re able to bring your talents back here,” Councilman Adam Mathews added.

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