Demolition marks start of downtown bank conversion

The Edison Co. plans to convert the Signet Bank building into apartments. Photos by Burl Rolett.

The Edison Co. and Monument Cos. finalized the deal to buy the former Signet Bank complex last week. Photos by Burl Rolett.

A $30 million downtown office-to-apartment conversion project is underway.

Demolition has begun at the former Signet Bank headquarters at 800 E. Main St., where local development firms The Edison Co. and Monument Cos. are making way for 196 new apartments in a two-building, nearly 200,000-square-foot complex.

“We hope to build on the success of John Marshall and the First National,” Edison Co. head Howard Kellman said, referring to the previous renovations of the John Marshall Hotel and First National Bank buildings into apartments. “Both of those projects have gone – from our understanding – very well, and we hope to build on that.”

The two development companies acting as 800 E. Main LLC bought the property last week for $8.5 million.

Washington D.C.-based Douglas Development was the seller in the deal, which closed Sept. 3, according to city records. Douglas Development paid $4.25 million for the property in 2002.

The developers’ acquisition included the three-story building that wraps around the corner of 8th and Main streets and an 11-story tower at 7 N. 8th St.

In addition to the 800 E. Main St. building, Edison also bought an  11-story tower at 7 N. 8th St.

In addition to the 800 E. Main St. building, the Edison-Monument team also bought an 11-story tower at 7 N. 8th St.

Kellman, who co-owns Edison Co. with wife Karen Kellman, said the project will cost between $28 million and $30 million, including the purchase price.

Scott Fowler of Fowler Architecture is the building’s architect. Monument Construction will be the general contractor and Union Bank is financing the project. The building’s new owners will seek historic tax credits, and Paige Pollard of Commonwealth Preservation Group is the project’s historic tax credit consultant.

Edison Co. has had the property under contract since this spring. At that time, it was unclear if the Monument Cos. would take an ownership stake in the project, but Kellman said in July that Monument’s construction wing would be the general contractor either way.

The Signet Bank project will become at the seventh joint venture for Edison and Monument. The companies most recently teamed up to develop apartments at the Massey Building on 4th Street, Exchange Place near Main and 13th and Theatre Row at 115 W. Broad St.

The Signet Building is at least twice the size of the last few Edison and Monument joint ventures, Monument principal Chris Johnson said in an email.

“We’ve always enjoyed working together, so when (Kellman) asked us to joint venture, it was as simple as getting comfortable with the project and the equity structure, which we were able to do quickly,” Johnson said.

The building’s 196 apartments will be mostly one-bedroom units, but the layout of the property will make space for some three-bedroom and possibly a few four-bedroom units, Kellman said. The developers are also planning about 5,000 square feet of commercial space, and the building has about 220 parking spaces.

Edison and Monument will bring their apartment tower into a busy downtown market. It’s the fifth recent downtown high-rise apartment conversion project to get under way since the John Marshall and First National Bank buildings were finished and the Central National Bank building and 700 Centre apartments projects got started.

The five apartment towers will total more than 900 apartments and approximately $175 million worth of construction costs between them.

Tom Dickey, a principal at Monument Cos., said the firm is working on preliminary demolition at the Signet Building and work will swing into high gear next week. The project is targeted for a Nov. 1, 2015 completion date.

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