In what might be the highest profile re-development project in the history of the city, a team of developers joined to essentially re-build the JC Penney Building. Tim Hill of Hatcher-Hill Properties, who is working on the project in conjunction with Dewhirst Properties, agreed to give me a tour and show me the progress.
The building was originally three buildings and hence occupies 412-416 S. Gay Street. While the three addresses now essentially form one building, three Gay Street entrances will open onto separate businesses when the development is finished in late summer. 412, the narrow building to the left is yet-to-be leased, while the center will be a restaurant and the building on the right will be the entrance to the bowling concept which will be located on the basement level. I plan to have more about the businesses in a subsequent article.
While the photographs here show large amounts of work remaining, it must be remembered that the roof had caved in on the building. Rain fell freely throughout and much of the internal structure had been lost. It wasn’t quite an empty shell behind the facade, but it was close. The task was daunting. Remember the “New. Urban. Living. Coming Soon.” banner which adorned the front of the building for several years? Clearly the idea to bring the building back isn’t new. Maybe it simply wasn’t time.
Just inside the entrance to 416 Gay Street will be the connection into the basement bowling alley. Several lanes will line the center of the basement, while the left side will include lanes that could be used for private parties. Additional lanes will be included in the lower portion of 416. The bowling alley will also have an upstairs lounge. But more about that later.
In the last couple of years the building has been through several potential clients and configurations. Office space originally appeared to be planned for at least a couple of the upper floors. Altar’d State was set to occupy the street-level commercial space and their corporate headquarters were to occupy the space above their retail outlet. When I wrote about the plan in January of 2013 it proved to be quite controversial with readers of this blog. That deal didn’t happen and over the course of the last two years the plans for office space shifted to residential.
To get a feel for the scope of the project, consider the numbers: 11,000 square feet of space at street-level. The full building contains 60,000 square feet. With that many square feet, a large number of urban apartments could be constructed. The developers have chosen to construct larger apartments (they will be leased, not condos for purchase) and the result is fewer, but more spacious units than would otherwise have been the case.
Two of the buildings have four floors, while 412 has only three, making the number of units smaller on the top floor. Also interesting, is the fact that 412 isn’t as deep as the other two buildings after the basement and first floor. I count seventeen units, including six on each of the second and third floors and five on the fourth, but the promotional materials mention twenty units, so I’m not sure about the difference, but there will be near twenty.
The two units at 412 will be smaller, though substantial by urban standards, at just a bit over 1200 sq. feet. They are typically urban in their long and narrow shape, but they do include two bedrooms and two baths. The units facing Gay Street on the front of the building are the largest with three measuring 2,125 sq. feet and three measuring 2,290 sq. ft. Pretty much suburban-sized homes, they do have an urban feel with hardwood floors, exposed brick and beams and very high ceilings. They also feature massive, arched windows with spectacular views of Gay Street and the city. With walk-in closets and two-bedroom (3) and three-bedroom (3) plans.
There are three units along the back of each of the top three floors, for a total of nine. Three have 1480 sq. ft., three have 1,275 square feet and three measure 1,720 square feet. Each of the nine have two bedrooms and two baths. It’s surprising to see large laundry rooms, master baths and walk-in closets in downtown apartments. The units running along the back of the building will also include small balconies, hence the outside doors you see in the photographs.
Of course, well over two thousand square feet of residential space overlooking Gay Street will not come cheaply. Rates haven’t been finalized for the unit, but given downtown rates elsewhere, the cost would likely be $3,000 or more a month for the front units. Clearly it will address a market which doesn’t include everyone. But then, it’s hard to find that kind of space elsewhere in the center city and there isn’t a much more central location.
The current projection is for the residential units to be available in June and the retail space to be open and operating by around August. It’s a bit hard to believe after so many years languishing and derelict, as well as several years discussion of re-development that this building will once more be a productive part of the city. After the Kress building is renovated, all the large buildings on Gay Street will be viable and useful once more, which is something to celebrate.
If you are interested in leasing the 1,175 square feet of retail space on Gay Street or one of the apartments, contact Tim Hill at (865)719-7538 or firstname.lastname@example.org.