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VOL. 124 | NO. 246 | Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Main Street’s ‘Big Hole’ Reaches Symbolic Milestone

By Andy Meek

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GLAD TIDINGS: Construction will wrap up soon at 100 South Main St., where a “topping off ceremony” will be held today for the mixed-use project that will include a parking garage and apartment units. The entire project is planned to open next summer. -- PHOTO COURTESY OF HENRY TURLEY CO.

Today’s topping off ceremony for what once was a giant hole at 100 S. Main St. represents a milestone. By next summer, the property will be the site of a parking garage and 92 apartment units.

The ceremony also brings the finish line in sight for what’s been a much-anticipated and long-delayed redevelopment of a centerpiece of Downtown’s Demonstration Block. That’s how the Center City Commission refers to the two-block stretch of Main Street that extends from Union Avenue to Gayoso Avenue.

Barbecue and refreshments will be served at today’s lunchtime celebration. It marks this week’s installation of the roof at Barboro Flats, the mixed-use development owned by 100 South Main Partners and the Downtown Parking Authority.

A cold day arrives

“A celebration is in order!” announce invitations to the event, which is a version of what Downtown officials have been saying since the development partnership lined up its financing and construction got under way. The current team got tapped for the project after a more ambitious effort fizzled several years ago and left Downtown officials to sort out how – and if – momentum could be restarted.

On a windy, overcast day almost 12 months ago to mark the ceremonial groundbreaking for the current project, CCC President Jeff Sanford couldn’t help himself. The groundbreaking came a little more than a month after 100 South Main Partners secured a $9.5 million loan from SunTrust Bank to finance the project’s construction.

“Somebody said it would be a cold day in you-know-where before this project would get under way,” Sanford noted.

Not only is construction under way but the whole thing is scheduled to wrap up soon. Leasing on the apartments will start in the spring, and the entire project, including the garage, will open next summer.

Jason Wexler, a principal at Greenhat Partners (one of the two companies developing 100 South Main), said work on the garage is nearly finished. The development team filed an $8 million building permit with the city-county Office of Construction Code Enforcement this summer to start the apartment phase of the project.

Montgomery Martin Contractors LLC is the project’s contractor, and Looney Ricks Kiss Architects Inc. is the architect.

“The crew’s been working really hard to get the building out of the ground and framed up,” Wexler said of today’s event. “So the ability to put the roof on top of it now is sort of a symbolic moment.

“By getting on the top of the building, we’re basically showing folks that the garage is on time and mostly all complete. The rest of the garage will just sort of come along nicely as the apartments finish up, so that they’ll open simultaneously in the summer.”

Barboro Flats is bordered by November 6th Street, Barboro Alley, Gayoso Avenue and South Main. It sits on the Main Street trolley line and is in the midst of a cluster of shops and restaurants including the fine-dining eatery Circa by John Bragg and the art gallery specialty store Art Under a Hot Tin Roof.

Long and winding road

The lengthy history of the effort to fill what once was known as the “Hole on Main” goes back more than six years. Before the plans that preceded the latest effort collapsed, they were put on the drawing board before FedExForum had opened and when Willie Herenton, the city’s five-term mayor who resigned this summer, was still in his third term.

The Nashoba Group LLC pulled the plug a few years ago on its planned 28-story residential tower with a parking garage called The Vue after running into financial trouble. The Downtown Parking Authority sifted through competing bids before choosing the current team to redevelop the half-block site.

One of the bids came from Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group, the San Francisco company that claims to have launched the concept of boutique hotels in the 1980s.

Kimpton envisioned building at the site a 120-suite Hotel Monaco, one of the company’s sub-brands known for luxurious amenities and whimsical designs.

Another proposal called for a five-story development with 215 parking spaces, 9,800 square feet of commercial space and 85,000 square feet of residential space.

Still another plan described a 28-story mixed-use project with a $51.1 million price tag. That development would include parking, a hotel, luxury apartments and almost 8,000 square feet of commercial space.

Wexler’s group learned it made the cut in mid-2007 and began construction this year.

“Developing a project on this site proved to be one of the most difficult in my years at the Center City Commission,” Sanford told The Daily News. “In addition to the challenges that face virtually all Downtown development projects like land assembly and financing, this one encountered turbulence when the Barboro Flats project was picked over several others. … But, to their everlasting credit, the Downtown Parking Authority board stood by their original selection, one which I still think represented sound business judgment.”

The Henry Turley Co., which will handle Barboro Flats’ residential leasing, is a developer on the project with Greenhat Partners. Slovis & Associates will handle the commercial leasing.

At the earlier groundbreaking, Wexler told the crowd it was “a good thing” to be competing with the sounds of backhoes and construction equipment to make his voice heard that day.

PROPERTY SALES 0 150 2,415
MORTGAGES 0 228 2,835
BANKRUPTCIES 0 133 1,920