Development talk for Spotswood re-launch

Two competing proposals to build multi-family housing in Lexington have been submitted to City Council


The potential for additional traffic on roads like Nelson Street has been a focal point in past public debates regarding housing development on Spotswood Drive. Developers have contended that the uptick in traffic will be minimal. Photo by Jess Kishbaugh, ’24.

Shauna Muckle

Lexington City Council is considering two proposed housing developments for a site on Spotswood Drive, after public criticism last year delayed approval of any development discussions for a year.

The two proposals came from Richmond-based development company Echelon Resources Inc., headed by Edwin Gaskin, and a newly-formed coalition of local architects, developers and community benefactors known as the Spotswood Collaborative.

The council heard from both developers during a work session March 1. Council Member David Sigler said both proposals are worth considering.

“My mind is certainly not made up,” Sigler said. “I do believe that something should be done on that property, and I think all of [City Council] does believe that.”

Both developers proposed upscale, multi-family housing on the site. But they differ in terms of ownership structure.

Gaskin has proposed a 62-unit, three-to-four story apartment complex. The apartments will be available for rent and managed by Echelon Resources.

“We own the property, we manage the property, we’re going to take care of issues, ideally collaboratively with tenants,” Gaskin said. 

The Spotswood Collaborative, meanwhile, is proposing a garden-style structure with up to 56 units that will be owned by their occupants. Max Ivankov, one of the developers and owner of local development company MaxMark Homes LLC, said this structure benefits the owners.

“The fundamental value that our project brings that the other project cannot is wealth generation for young people coming to this community,” Ivankov said.

Members of the collaborative said occupants would manage issues and settle disagreements through a homeowner’s association. 

Gaskin said the developer-managed style his company is proposing would have an easier time settling disputes. 

“In our experience, HOAs tend to be difficult to engage when there are contentious or enforcement matters, and things can quickly ramp up to contention between neighbors,” Gaskin said. 

Ivankov pointed to the fact that all the members of his collaborative are locals. He said that helps them understand Lexington’s demographics. 

“We understand the needs of the town better because we live here,” he said. “We talk to the people who would be our customers. This is an organic thing that happens after years of living in a place.”

City officials have called attention to recent housing studies concluding that the city needs more multi-family housing to attract young professionals and families. Most of Lexington’s 2.5 square miles of land is already occupied by single-family homes, colleges and businesses, making the Spotswood site a rare opportunity for further development. 

Last year, Gaskin submitted an unsolicited offer to develop the site. 

Ivankov and Ben Grigsby, now members of the Spotswood Collaborative, also submitted unsolicited offers after Gaskin.

Gaskin’s previous proposal was larger in scope, at 150 and later 90 units. It would have demolished the adjacent Piovano building, which houses the Rockbridge Area Relief Association, a food pantry.

Members of the public last year sharply criticized the prospect of displacing RARA. City Council ultimately sold the Piovano building to RARA, trimming the size of the Spotswood parcel and pushing back consideration of development proposals for a year. 

Signer said members of council understood they needed to delay their decision.

“I don’t think any of us are upset that the timeline was extended because of the public and the public speaking out about the importance of RARA,” Sigler said. 

And despite the reduction in size of his proposed project, Gaskin said he still believes the site holds promise. 

“When Spotswood came up we thought, ‘Wow, what an amazing site, right across from the historic cemetery, right next to a hospital surrounded with single family homes,’” Gaskin said. “It just seemed like the perfect site for a next chapter of success.”

While public concerns about RARA have been alleviated, members of the public last year conveyed general concerns with developing the site. 

Citizens said the parcel should be used as an expansion for Oak Grove Cemetery. They also said development would exacerbate traffic on Nelson Street and Houston Street. 

Sigler said that the council wants more public input this time around, as well. He said public criticism last year made the two new proposals better.

“Hopefully the public finds myself and other members of council and informs all of our votes,” he said. 

Now that the developers have presented their proposals, the city manager will present his recommendation to the public April 7. After that, City Council could decide to sell the property to one of the developers.