David Ross, the owner of Falcon Construction and Development in Asheville, will renovate the structure at 244 E. Main St. for a combination of residential and retail uses.
The building, which sits at the corner of East Main and North Roan streets, will have apartments on the top two floors and a commercial tenant — “a retail, restaurant, bar concept” — on the first floor. Ross said he’s still working on a lease with a potential tenant and isn’t ready to identify an occupant for the commercial space.
Having spent years working as a developer and builder in Asheville, Ross said this is his first project in Johnson City.
“Johnson City, I feel like, is the next up-and-coming area,” he said. “The buildings are still at reasonable cost.”
The spot at East Main Street used to be home to Masengill’s Specialty Shop, a formal men’s and women’s clothing store that operated in Johnson City for more than 100 years.
Ambers Wilson, who was the owner and operator of the shop starting in 1958, told the Johnson City Press in May 2017 that, at 82 years old, he wasn’t able to continue giving the building the attention it needed, which contributed to his decision to close the store.
Ross said Johnson City’s government is putting a lot of time and attention into rejuvenating its downtown area. On a larger scale, he said there’s been a big push in the past 15 years to redevelop downtown spaces.
“I feel like Johnson City is trying to do that,” Ross said. “Their economic development department, the people in general are really seeing that creating a vibrant downtown is the lifeblood of the city a little bit.”
According to a building permit issued by the city in September, work on the building will involve restoring and maintaining the building’s facade, replacing the roof membrane and adding roof insulation.
Ross bought the building in 2018 for $590,000 and said the renovation is being supported financially through a facade grant from the Johnson City Development Authority and a 20% federal tax credit, which is possible because the building is in the city’s downtown historic district.
He hopes to have the bottom, commercial part of the building complete by summer 2020 and the upper, residential part complete by fall 2020.