The new owner of a 90-year-old East Franklin Street building that’s home to a well-known local pub wants to bring more residents downtown.
Local developer Justin Paley recently purchased the three-story property at 421 E. Franklin St., known as the French Quarter building and the home of Penny Lane Pub.
Paley, who bought the building on May 29 for $930,000, plans to renovate and convert the top two floors of office space into 10 apartment units.
The 15,500-square-foot building had never been officially listed on the market, but while passing it every day on his way to and from work, Paley set his sights on it and decided its upper floors were underutilized as office space.
“There are a lot of good neighborhoods, like Scott’s Addition, Manchester and Church Hill, and the main downtown financial district is a really good place to be, as well,” Paley said. “There’s a lot of change happening in that area.”
Penny Lane has a long-term lease on its 7,500 square feet and will remain in the location, Paley said. In fact, the 12-year-old restaurant is likely to drive up the units’ popularity, he added.
“They were a big part of the reason why we were interested,” he said. “When you’re looking to build walkability in mixed-use communities, having a restaurant downstairs is a nice addition.”
Construction is likely to start this fall and finish up in the spring of 2016.
The entire project, including land acquisition, should cost about $2.1 million. Paley is working with Essex Bank for financing. Michael Pellis is the architect designing the project. Monument Construction is the general contractor.
Paley’s plans for the French Quarter building, which was built in 1927, will include minimal adjustments to the exterior in order to retain the property’s historic character, he said.
“It’s a unique building in the sense that it has the New Orleans feel to it,” Paley said.
Most of the apartment units will be one-bedroom, with a few two-bedrooms, all with an average of 740 square feet. Seven of the 10 apartments will have access to the balconies that hang over North Fifth Street, and one will have a private rooftop deck.
Tyler Miller and Kit Tyler of Colliers International represented Paley in the deal. The seller was an entity called ARKS LLC, which had owned the building since 2000, city records show.
Miller said he started working with Paley late last year.
“It’s a beautiful building, with those French doors that open onto those little patios, and it’s always nice to have a bar downstairs,” Miller said.
Paley said he’s actively seeking another development project, and his Franklin Street tenants will join other new and pending arrivals in the surrounding blocks of downtown.
Julep’s recently opened at 420 E. Grace St. after a move up from Shockoe Bottom, a new pizzeria is coming to the nearby Berry Burk building and a neighborhood market and deli is opening up just around the corner from the French Quarter building.
“I’m very excited about the future of this neighborhood,” Paley said.