Brick work has started on a new Airbnb project in the River District.
Rick Barker, the developer behind the evolution of the 500 block of Craghead Street since 2015, is bringing an Airbnb with nine units to that part of the River District. One of the rooms will be for an artist-in-residence under a partnership with the Danville Museum of Fine Arts & History.
He hopes to provide visitors amenities that will enable them to leave Danville with an understanding of the city's tobacco and textiles culture.
"More and more, travelers are looking for local experiences," Barker said. "This will be a local art-themed property that will provide a Southern Virginia experience."
Full-fledged construction on the project at 546, 548 and 550 Craghead St. should begin in February or March, Barker said Tuesday.
"We've already started the brick restoration on the Swift Building [550 Craghead]," Barker said.
Barker opened Supply Resources Inc. at 554 Craghead St. in 2015, and is its founder and president.
The Airbnb project is under Rick Barker Properties, which is an affiliated company with Supply Resources Inc.
He also owns Mucho Taquieria and Tequileria restaurant and the The Garage Artisan Smoked Meats.
Barker's new construction company, Thrive Contracting, will build the project.
The historic properties used to house Nabisco (546), Eldridge Drug Store (548) and Swift & Co., which was a butcher shop at 550 Craghead St.
The former Eldridge store portion collapsed, leaving space for a courtyard where guests will enter the buildings on each side to access the Airbnb units, Barker said.
The old structures — the former Nabisco building was constructed in 1913 — suffered extensive damage during Tropical Storm Michael in October 2018.
The project will merge the three properties into one address with multiple suites and include engineering and design to enable the building to withstand the next flood, Barker said.
Brick restoration should take about three months, he said.
"The buildings were nearly destroyed," Barker said. "It's an intense restoration project."
State historic tax credits have been approved for the project. Barker is waiting to hear whether he will be able to receive federal historic tax credits as well.
"We hope to get federal tax credits, then we'll begin construction in earnest as soon as we find out," he said.
Work will include installing steel and concrete and putting wood flooring on top to retain a historic look.
Each room will be about 700 to 1,000 square feet, with one or two bedrooms and a balcony.
The project will also feature a bridge on the second floor connecting the structures currently at 546 and 550 Craghead St.
Kevin Jones, an architect on the faculty at Virginia Tech, will be responsible for the architecture and interior design all the way through the project's branding, Barker said.
"We're going to have a good, consistent look through all visual aspects of the project," he said.
Thrive Contracting General Manager Mike Allen will manage the project's construction, Barker said.
Allen has worked with Barker on past projects.
"I always enjoyed working with Rick," Allen said. "It's a good opportunity."
A Danville resident, Allen was previously project manager with Callahan Construction in Raleigh, N.C., and has 14 years experience in construction.
Joining Thrive Contracting "was also an opportunity to work close to home," Allen said.