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Nathan Baker

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Developer moves forward with project in downtown Johnson City

March 26th, 2014 9:01 pm by Nathan Baker

Developer moves forward with project in downtown Johnson City

(Photos by Lee Talbert/Johnson City Press)

A local real estate developer hopes to continue Johnson City’s downtown recent revitalization gains with a $1.2 million residential and retail project in a former Market Street hardware store.

Brent Long purchased the three story brick building at 110 W. Market St. in January and hopes to install 20 1- and 2-bedroom apartments on the second and third floors and restaurant, market or retail space in the 5,500 square feet on the ground floor.

Long, a real estate investor for about five years, said Monday he’s been cleaning debris out of the 94-year-old structure and finalizing architectural drawings, and he’s planning for the contractor, Johnson City’s Ernest Campbell Development, to begin work in the next two months. If everything proceeds according to schedule, he’d like to begin leasing the apartments by the end of October.

“We’re keeping the original heart pine floors from 1920, we’ll have exposed brick and beams in the units and we’re planning to add a lot of unique and thoughtful touches,” he said of the residential space.

The apartments, which he said will vary widely from 400 to 1,200 square feet of living space, will be loft-style, which means they will have open floorplans with some of the bedrooms separated only by drapery from the rest of the apartment.

Long hasn’t yet set the cost of rents for the new units.

The Commerce Street side of the building will have a tenants’ entrance with a bicycle corral, through which Long said he hopes to encourage pedal-powered transportation to downtown destinations and recreation on the Tweetsie and Millennium trails.

The developer plans to rent the commercial space to a restaurant, an organic market or a combination of the two, but not a bar.

“I want it to be a business I would want to patronize,” Long said. “We’ve got enough bars downtown, I don’t want to bring in another bar.”

The new development will be named London’s Lofts, an homage to a previous business that resided there, London’s Hardware. Residents may recognize it as the building with the round stone ring affixed to the top of its Market Street face.

Long said the striking architectural feature will remain after facade improvements, paid for in-part by a $19,000 grant from the Washington County Economic Development Council.

The original exterior entrance doors, found stored inside the building, will soon be re-installed as part of the renovations, he said.

In investing in the property, Long said his goal is to help with the city core’s resurgence and to preserve the historically significant buildings for future generations.

“I’ve got three children, ages 2, 6 and 8,” he said. “They’re going to grow up, and I want downtown to be the kind of place they would want to live in. They can move off to other places if they want to, but I don’t want it to be because there aren’t any opportunities for them here.”

In discussing flooding issues, Long said he’s confident the city’s recent mitigation efforts will help alleviate the problem.

The London Building is only 6 inches into the floodplain, according to Long’s insurer, and it’s about four feet higher in elevation than Campbell’s Morrell Music across the street, which keeps sandbags protecting one of its Market Street entrances.

“We’ve kept an eye on it for some time, and we haven’t seen it take on any water,” Long said. “If it did, we’re planning on keeping the concrete slab on the bottom floor, so it shouldn’t be too bad to clean that up.”

The new development is conveniently located near one of downtown’s public parking lots, providing an answer for one of the first questions that always seems to arise when considering downtown living, he said.

The 20 new apartments bring the number of residential units offered downtown to near 300, spurred largely in recent years by the Urban Redevelopment Alliance, a real estate development and management company based in Johnson City’s Downtown Towers.

The company manages apartments at near capacity on Tipton and Spring streets and Paxton Place, a 26-unit building opened earlier this year.

Todd Carter is just now putting the finishing touches on 15 newly built units at Cherry and Roan streets, and Grant Summers and Seth Kincaid are still working to renovate the top floors of the former Tennessee National Bank at Spring and East Main streets, creating 13 new units.

For more information on London’s Lofts, visit www.londonslofts.com.

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