A pair of entrepreneurs has purchased and is rehabbing a key property along the 16th Street corridor a few blocks east of Meridian Street.
Mark Nottingham, a residential real estate broker who started his own agency in December, partnered with his brother, Josh, a month earlier to buy the Foundry, a pair of connected buildings at the northwest corner of 16th and Alabama streets.
Nottingham said a $375,000 renovation of the structures will begin as soon as the city issues construction permits. The modest dollar amount understates the significance to the surrounding neighborhood of the 5,000-square-foot project, which will house a 50-seat café and offices for Nottingham Realty Group.
The seller of the property, Herron-Morton Place Foundation, had been looking for the right buyer for six years when it struck the deal with the Nottinghams.
The foundation bought the vacant buildings from the city in late 2005 for $48,000 and set out to stabilize them while simultaneously looking for a buyer that would launch a renovation and attract retail tenants to serve the neighborhood.
The buildings, one of them 100 years old and the other about half that age, have been empty for about 20 years. The last occupant was the Herron School of Art, which used the building for a metal-working studio (thus the foundry name).
Kristen Edmundson, a member of the Herron Morton Foundation’s Foundry committee, said a little more than $90,000 was invested in stabilizing the buildings, with some of that money coming in the form of grants from the Local Initiatives Support Corp.
Over the years her group has had discussions with about 25 potential buyers or tenants. She said finding a user for the buildings that would serve the neighborhood and have a good chance of being successful were the group’s primary concern. The foundation is comfortable with the Nottinghams. “The kicker for us was that they had gotten letters of recommendation from neighborhood businesses and not-for-profits.”
Nottingham expects his new real estate office to open by June 1 and the café to open sometime after July 1. The architect for the Foundry project is Scott Perkins of Blackline Studio, an architectural firm in Fountain Square. The construction manager is the local firm Primed & Ready.
A manager will be hired to handle the restaurant side of the business. Nottingham will focus on his agency, the location of which is a reflection of how bullish he is on urban living.
“We are a traditional brokerage that exists to represent buyers and sellers, but the fact we’re starting a new office in an urban neighborhood is very intentional,” said Nottingham, who lives, attends church and now owns a commercial building downtown.
Nottingham, who previously sold for Carpenter and Sycamore, said he got inspiration to strike out on his own from some of the community development corporations that are working to bring people and jobs back to the city’s oldest neighborhoods.
Inspiration also came from City Gallery, a storefront at 1505 N. Delaware St., that uses art and events to tell the story of urban neighborhoods and promote urban living. The gallery, an initiative of the Harrison Center for the Arts, opened in August.
Joanna Taft, executive director of the Harrison Center, said City Gallery has made direct contact with more than 700 people and has played a role in at least 50 relocations, most of those to the urban neighborhoods the gallery promotes.
She said Mark Nottingham has been a regular at gallery social functions and has been involved in some of the resulting real estate transactions.