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Developer bringing former Hennessy’s back to life

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From Feb. 13-26, 2017 print issue of the Columbia Regional Business Report

By C. Grant Jackson

Contributing Writer

Columbia architect and developer Scott Garvin is planning a restaurant, coffee shop, and office space for a repurposed 1649 Main St., the building that formerly housed the upscale restaurant Hennessy’s.

The coffee shop would occupy the building’s basement and be accessed through a new open-air sunken courtyard on the Blanding Street side of the building. The courtyard will be created by opening up the old basement that a runs under the current sidewalk.  The renovation will leave a public Scott Garvin stands in front of second-story window. Garvin has removed the small glass blocks from the windows on the front of the building that were put in during the 1960s and is recreating a large triple-paned window that was part of Ruff Hardware.The large windows allow daylight into the upper floor illuminating a conference room with a view of Main Street. (Photo/Chuck Crumbo)sidewalk down Blanding beside the courtyard.

Garvin said he is close to a lease with a coffee shop that is a regional player, but has local interests. “It will be a local feel. They will be serving breakfast and coffee,” Garvin said.

The restaurant would be in the first floor space formerly occupied by Hennessy’s. Hennessy’s had a mezzanine space with very low ceilings, which Garvin has taken out, but the restaurant will have a private dining space at the front of the basement and access to the new courtyard. Garvin is rebuilding a stairway into the basement at the front of the building, similar to what he did when his firm remodeled the Mast General Store building at the other end of the block. The coffee shop and restaurant would share outdoor tables.

Garvin has had interest in the restaurant space, but getting the right restaurant for the building is important, he said. So many people have fond memories of dining at Hennessy’s, including Garvin who recalled eating there with his father. “Everyone is interested in what’s going to happen to Hennessy’s,” Garvin said, “because to them it (the building) is still Hennessy’s. So that’s why I want it to be a real good, classy restaurant.”

Garvin, president of Garvin Design Group, and several partners purchased the building, which had sat empty since Hennessy’s closed, in the fall of 2016 and began renovating it in November. He plans to be finished with the renovation by the end of 2017, subject to getting tenants lined up. The 12,000-square-foot building has two floors and a basement of 4,000 square feet each. Hood Construction is the general contractor for the project and Garvin is the managing partner for the development.

The building was bought for about $525,000, Garvin said, and the group is spending $2.5 million more on renovations. The project is similar to the City Market renovation that Garvin and several partners did on Gervais Street in the Vista neighborhood. The investment costs will be offset through tax credits for historic and landmark properties; the Bailey Bill, which allows local governments to grant tax abatements to rehabilitated historic properties; and the Abandoned Building Act, because the building has been unoccupied since Hennessy’s closed in 2011.

Built as a grocery store in 1872, the building was purchased in 1910 by Ruff Hardware Co., which renovated and expanded it. The building was renovated again in 1941 and was in Ruff’s possession until about mid-1970s, Garvin said.

Ruff’s 1941 renovation and expansion is Garvin’s target for the historical restoration. “We are doing it all around Ruff Hardware,” he said. That includes putting back the original storefront, which will be a glass wall set back and under cover from the current front of the building.  From that storefront you will be able to go either straight into the restaurant or left up the stairs to the office space. Garvin is also keeping the plaster exterior that was applied in 1941.

Much of the original decorative pressed-tin ceiling that was put in either in 1928 or 1941 remains, as well as a lot of small hardwood oak-board flooring that is still in good shape, especially on the top floor. Garvin has removed the small glass blocks from the upper windows on the front of the building that were put in during the 1960s and is recreating a large triple-paned window that was part of Ruff Hardware. The large windows allow daylight into the upper floor illuminating a conference room with a view of Main Street.

The top floor and basement have not been used since 1970, Garvin said.  “The basement was nasty,” Garvin said, with lots of walls and windows in the hallway that Garvin described as weird because there is no daylight.  “I’ve heard it was an office. I’ve heard it was a brothel, but everybody says everything was a brothel,” he said, although, “we did find a sign that said ‘Columbia Social Club, Private, Members Only.’”

Opening up the sidewalk   and creating the courtyard is the most challenging part of the project. When Ruff renovated in 1941, it expanded the basement underneath the sidewalk.  “It’s just radical what I’m talking about doing,” Garvin said, although there is precedent with the courtyard at the Hampton Street Vineyard.  “Everybody is on board with it. We’re just working through it since it is city property that I am dealing with.”  The courtyard allows him to turn the basement into space for a viable tenant, he said, “Otherwise it is just wasted space.”

Besides the City Market, Garvin has done a number of historic reuse projects, including the building at Gervais and Lincoln streets that houses Starbucks and the offices of Garvin Design Group. But he had focused on the Vista and was not looking to do a project on Main Street. That changed when the City Center Partnership, which manages and markets the downtown business improvement district, asked him to take a look at Hennessy’s and he heard the building’s story.  “I’m drawn to buildings that have stories. City Market had all those stories about what it was used for. So that is what drew me here,” Garvin said.

“We wanted a top flight developer for that building (Hennessy’s) and that is certainly Scott,” said Matt Kennell, the president and CEO of City Center Partnership.  The building at the corner of Main and Blanding streets is a bookend on the east side of the street to Mast General Store at Main and Taylor streets.

“The former Hennessy’s building is in a critical location for the continued development of Main Street,” Kennel said. “It is at the end of the line of the streetscaping projects by the city which has led to hundreds of millions of dollars of investment and hundreds of jobs. This intersection and the next are slated to be improved this year so Scott’ timing is excellent, as more success will certainly follow the capital investment by the city.  It is our hope that this streetscape work will continue to complete the revitalization of Main Street.”

Current projects in the 1600 block of Main include the renovation of reuse of 1621 and 1625 Main, the former home of the Army-Navy Store, into a seven-lane bowling alley and restaurant with apartments above.

The project is being undertaken by developer Greg Middleton, the son of Scott Middleton, CEO of Agape Senior, who renovated several buildings directly across the street for Michael’s Cafe & Catering, the Good Life Café  and Agape Physicians Care as well as a new headquarters for Agape Senior.

In addition Cyberwoven , a web strategy and design firm, is planning to renovate and move into a historic building down the block at 1634 Main St.

Redevelopment of the east side of the 1600 block of Main Street was jump-started in 2011 when Mast General  Store moved into the historic Effird’s building that had been formerly occupied  by Lourie’s Department Store. Interestingly, Garvin Design did the project for Mast.

The Mast redevelopment was followed by the renovation of the former Fox Theatre at 1607 Main for the Nickelodeon art house theater.

One of the more recent additions to the block has been Lula Drake Wine Parlour, which opened in a renovated historic building at 1635 Main St., most recently home to the T.O. Thompson jewelry store.

One of Lula Drake’s owners Tim Gardner is a founding partner and director of media production company Mad Monkey, which is right next door to 1635 Main, in yet another renovated historic building.

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