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VOL. 121 | NO. 11 | Thursday, January 5, 2006

Piggly Wiggly Headquarters Goes Posh

Old Front Street building to become luxury condominium complex

By Andy Meek

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SNAPSHOT IN TIME: Built in 1915, Piggy Wiggly Corp. on Front Street is one of many Downtown buildings being converted to condominiums and other types of residential property. -- Photograph Courtesy Of The Nashoba Group

Last month, a busload of real estate agents from Hobson Co. Realtors toured Downtown to get an up-close look at what's become a sizzling residential market.

For Realtor associate Randy Jefferson, the trip boosted his optimism about one of the newer properties he's handling: the conversion of the former Piggly Wiggly Corp. headquarters into a $13 million, 34-unit condominium project called The Nettleton at 435 S. Front St.

View from the top. With company literature promising magnificent views, a rooftop terrace and historic charm, Jefferson said The Nettleton's upscale units should fit in well Downtown. The bus tour showed him a condo market that has something for everyone, and the Nettleton's 72,000-square-foot hulking warehouse shell - with grand columns on the interior that stretch from the basement to the third floor - is being transformed into an especially unique "something."

The result will be yet another new condo property that includes the features most Downtown buyers always look for, as well as enough traits that make it entirely unique.

"And I think that's really good for the market and for everybody involved," said Jefferson, who's handling sales at The Nettleton along with Carolina Capote from Hobson Co. "Anybody can come down here and find what they want."

Grecian grandeur. That includes amenities like the arched windows, columns, and hardwood floors present in most of the units in The Nettleton. The conversion project - which had at first been called the Wiggly Lofts - is part of $108 million in development that's now taking place in the South Main Arts District, based on figures from the Center City Commission.

It's also part of a demand for residential space that's dramatically transforming warehouses and other unused properties Downtown, where there are 2,287 condo units in various stages of development, according to the CCC's Downtown Condo Report.

As of October 3, there were 15 condo projects in the planning stage. That includes The Nettleton, and more than 700 new units will be brought to the market eventually.

"And very few of those projects are exactly the same," Jefferson said. "They overlap a little bit in price, but not much."

Construction costs. A $6.3 million building permit for The Nettleton condos was filed Dec. 6, according to The Daily News Online, www.memphisdailynews.com. The project - the first units of which could be ready as early as July - includes condos ranging from around 1,300 square feet to 2,700 square feet, currently priced between $260,000 and $650,000.

A California group, AJW Investments, is the investor behind the project.

Plans for the upscale development call for four one-bedroom and 29 two-bedroom units, as well as one three-bedroom penthouse.

Each unit will include such touches as granite countertops, raised-panel cabinets and alarm systems. The two new upper floors will be comprised of units that offer sweeping urban vistas.

First among many. It's the first condo venture Downtown for the project's developer, The Nashoba Group. Keith Saunders, a partner in the company, said pre-sales have already begun. Construction should begin sometime this month once reservations for 10 pre-sold units have been finalized.

By the time it's finished, the developers will have also added two upper floors to the building.

"And those units will have almost bridge-to-bridge river views and beautiful, panoramic views of the city," Saunders said. "Downtown - especially in the South Main area - is where we're concentrating most of our effort because that's the area of the city that's growing most rapidly. So that's our main interest right now."

Gritty to grand. Most of the vacant, 91-year-old structure is former warehouse space. There was once office space on the second floor, which Memphis Heritage Inc. is looking to preserve in some form.

For starters, there will be several light shafts running through the building that will draw natural light into the bedrooms, a requirement of local construction codes. It's a rare commodity among Downtown's condos, Jefferson said.

"I also think the developers have taken a great deal of effort to make sure that they've kept as many of the architecturally interesting parts of the building as they could," Jefferson said.

For example, massive arched windows will dominate the front of the building. The first floor will have 19-foot ceilings with exposed crossbeams.

Urban, urbane. Those involved with the project hope such amenities, as well as features such as underground parking, bring renewed interest to a historic Downtown address, which the Nashoba Group is advertising as "the best, for those seeking a unique, urban lifestyle just 200 feet from the tops of the Mississippi River bluffs."

"I think having the charm of the historical buildings is great," Jefferson said. "We're going to have exposed brick walls, which is just something you can't replicate in a new building. And like the big columns in there, it's something you just couldn't even afford to put into a building nowadays.

"Charm is really the best word I can come up with. I think people like the idea of that urban cityscape, converted warehouse feel."

PROPERTY SALES 51 328 20,960
MORTGAGES 58 387 24,132
BUILDING PERMITS 170 842 43,435
BANKRUPTCIES 50 288 13,468