Whirligig Station starts leasing process

Apartments will rent for $850 to $1,250

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Whirligig Station has started pre-leasing on the $12 million adaptive reuse project that included construction of apartments inside the shell of the historic Hi Dollar Warehouse in downtown Wilson.

“We are just ready to get in there and get people moving in,” said Emily Sanfratella, chief operating officer at Waukeshaw Development, the Petersburg, Virginia-based company that has been working on the project since 2011.

The century-old, 64,000-square-foot brick warehouse is positioned on Goldsboro Street across from the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park.

Sanfratella said 94 apartment rental units are in the final stages of construction.

Waukeshaw Development has retained The Chesson Agency for leasing the units.

“We have been talking with them for the better part of a year,” Sanfratella said. “They have been really interested in what we were doing and really supportive of the development downtown.

“Matthew (Chesson) and I have stayed connected as the building has come along. We are finally at the point where we are ready to start leasing and hopefully moving people in. Our target date is April 1. They just have a really great understanding of the market. They have been really communicative and easy to work with and seemed like a great partner for us.”

Rents will range from $850 to $1,250 for the 600- to 1,200 square-foot units.

“That’s for one and two bedrooms, and that includes all utilities, so the water, sewer, trash, electric, cable and high-speed internet,” Sanfratella said. “We will start pre-leasing this month and potentially could move people in as early as March, but we are saying April unofficially. We feel 100 percent confident we can move people in at that time.”

All the units are a little bit different. Some are one story and others are two stories.

“We have got some of those two-story units where you come in and you have got an entire first floor that’s your kitchen, living area, powder room, and then you have got stairs inside the unit that take you up to this lofted bedroom space,” Sanfratella said. “We tried to keep the units bright and open so even though the square footage is smaller in some of the units, it doesn’t feel like a 600 square-foot apartment. It feels like a nice, comfortable home. You have some that have patio private entrances. We have got (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible units. We tried to design with a broad range of people in mind.”

“We have actually been really blown away by the interest,” Sanfratella said. “We have had a website up for the better part of a year with a contact form, and we have been receiving a lot of leads through that. So people have been writing us and asking us to keep them informed about the progress of the building. So Matthew’s first task is going to be reaching out to those people and get them into the building and touring.”


Sanfratella said it was important to preserve the building’s historic fabric.

“There are so many things about that building that make it beautiful and special,” Sanfratella said. “In a lot of the units, you can look all the way up to the top of that building with the exposed wooden rafters that are really gorgeous. There are a lot of exposed beams and trusses in the units throughout the building. We have preserved the original hardwood floors in the main hallways. The original footprint of the building is still intact. We tried not to carve it up into tiny little pieces where you couldn’t see what the building used to be.”

Sanfratella said contractors were told not to throw away any items from the building that appeared historic and important.

“We have actually found a lot of interesting artifacts,” Sanfratella said. “We have found old scales for weighing tobacco. We have found old handwritten letters, and we are collecting those things and are hoping to somehow incorporate those into the building’s design. We have the ghost lettering on the brick. I think those things are really important. People want to know the history of the building and see the evolution of it, and the last thing we want to do is come in and erase the sense of place.”

The project incorporates an 1,880 square-foot space for a visitor center associated with the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Museum and Visitor Center.

One of Simpson’s original whirligigs, Mule Train, has been brought into the space already, according to site supervisor Abbitt Hoffman.

“The replica is across the street, so that stretches one length of the wall and then it goes over to the brick wall, which will be a very decent-sized visitor center and museum for the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park,” Hoffman said.

There is also a 2,469 square-foot space for a restaurant site in the main entrance to the building.

Sanfrantella said there is not a restaurateur secured for the space.

“Not yet, but we are close, and hopefully we will have an announcement on that soon,” Sanfrantella said.

“Most of the first portion of the apartments, about 40, we have got all the Sheetrock installed,” Hoffman said. “Light fixtures are being installed in them. We are trying to get all the appliances available and start installing. We are still working on the back portion of the building on getting the framing, wiring and plumbing completed so we can start rocking and rolling with our Sheetrock and painting on that end of the building. We pretty much stay busy here. We have put in extra time working trying to meet the deadlines and try to get to the point where we can meet the owner’s requirements. For me, it’s just to try to get the building done so we can start letting the residents move in.”

Sanfrantella said it’s exciting to see the project nearing completion.

“It has been certainly longer than we anticipated. Whenever you get into an old historic building, there are always unanticipated challenges that you have got to overcome,” Sanfrantella said. “We had a lot of issues with everything, really. You just get in and what you thought was a small job and just becomes a much larger one, so we have been pushing through those things. We were hoping to be open in 2018, but we are racing toward the finish line now, and we are excited about that. We have been working on this thing for so many years now that to finally be at the finish line and seeing these units come together is really exciting for us.”

Prospective renters can call The Chesson Agency at 252-674-1596.