By Amir Vera, The Progress-Index
PETERSBURG — The three corners at the intersection of Washington Street and Sycamore Street are seeing new life.
Joe Battiston, owner and president of medical equipment manufacturing company TFI Healthcare, is looking to bring people to the city through his renovations of three properties at the busy intersection. Battison currently owns about 11 properties in Petersburg spanning from the Appomattox Regional Governor’s School on East Washington into Old Towne. The three active renovations he is currently working on include: 2,4 and 8 North Sycamore St., which he hopes to make into 13 apartments and restaurant on the first floor; 1 and 7 South Sycamore St. (the old C&P building), part of which is already the new Liberty Tax center and Battiston said he hopes to make into an indoor parking lot for apartments; and 1 North Sycamore Street (the old Subway), which he hopes to lease out to a national food chain.
“Ultimately, I’m hoping it’s going to bring more people into the city and let people see the diamond in the rough that we have,” Battiston said. “Take a look at the other projects going on, there’s a lot of success here in Petersburg and I’m glad to be a part of that.”
Battiston originally moved to Petersburg for his business in 1988. He said he and his wife, Beth, have been coming to Petersburg and enjoying its night life for about 12 years.
“Prior to that we were driving to Richmond in order to have any kind of nightlife. As soon as we discovered the Brickhouse and a few other places that were around back then, we asked ourselves why we were driving all the way to Richmond when we’ve got stuff to do down here,” he said. “At that point, everybody knew everybody because it was only a small nucleus of people that spent their time down here. Over the years, the number of new faces are increasing at such a high rate.”
It’s due to this increase in people coming to the city that he began to see the potential in the intersection. He said the city needs more restaurants, antique shops and art galleries because those are three things that are drawing a lot of people to Petersburg.
“All of the communities I’ve seen that have been successful in renovating and rejuvenating a town, they’ve always done it starting at two ends and I noticed Petersburg was starting to do it starting at one end and hoping to grow outward,” he said. “I didn’t feel that was being successful and all the ones that have been successful have started at multiple ends and then worked in between. That’s the model that I saw could work for Petersburg.”
The inspiration behind these projects on Sycamore came from other cities he had seen develop in the past such as Norfolk and Baltimore.
“All of these communities didn’t start in a nucleus and branch out, they started here and there. Other communities have done it, but started so far apart that they couldn’t fill in the middle,” he said. “I saw this corner being such an important corner as the starting point to connecting with Old Towne.”
As far as funding for these projects, Battiston said he is borrowing money as well as using his own. He said he is also applying and using tax credits since these are upscale projects. Of the three properties, Battiston said he is hoping to finish the restaurant and apartments at 2,4 and 8 North Sycamore St. by spring 2016.
Battiston’s projects also are coming during a time of rejuvenation in the Sycamore corridor. Invitation Only Signature Collections boutique, Second Hand Rose vintage clothing store and Herstoryrepeated convenience and thrift boutique are all businesses that have opened along Sycamore Street within the last year.