Deborah Shurlow, who owns the five-story, 19,000-square-foot structure, has plans to put retail space on the ground floor, a dozen apartments on levels two through four, and a pair of condominiums on the fifth floor.
“The retail on the first floor will be real nice because I’m able to put an opening through the public walkway that goes to the covered parking. We’ll have people walking through there everyday, especially with the Blue Cross people. It would be great for a café,” said Shurlow, a retail adviser with Grubb & Ellis/Paramount Properties.
The former Fox Jewelers is located across Monroe Center from the former Steketee’s Department Store, which becomes the new workplace for 266 Blue Cross Blue Shield employees in August. Shurlow hopes to have most of the renovation done by then. The interior of the building has been gutted and construction is set to get underway next month.
The DDA granted Shurlow a partial tax abatement through the Obsolete Property Act, made state law in 2000. The board’s action will reduce her property taxes by a third for the next dozen years. DDA Executive Director Jay Fowler estimated the abatement would save Shurlow about $5,300 a year. The State Equalized Value of the building is nearly $133,000.
The board may review an application next month from Shurlow for a building reuse grant that could provide her with up to $50,000 for exterior work. Fowler said the DDA normally doesn’t award abatements and reuse grants to the same project unless the renovation plan includes housing units, as Shurlow’s does.
“The DDA’s highest priority since Day One has been to promote downtown housing,” said Fowler.
Shurlow also is working with Rick Chapla, a redevelopment specialist with The Right Place Inc., to get a brownfield designation for the building that would result in more tax savings.
“All of these different things are independently pretty important,” said Shurlow of the assistance available from the state and city for renovation projects. “It’s an expensive rehab project. The building was truly too obsolete to use the way we want to use it.”
Shurlow will renovate the building according to historic standards in hopes of getting tax credits to help offset the $900,000 investment she is making in the project. Tom Dowling of Design Pinnacle is designing the restoration and managing the construction work.
“He is actually working very hard with me. I think he does over and above what most people would do,” she said of Dowling. “He uncovered some plaques in the building that say ‘The Peck Building’ and a stairway that goes to nowhere. At one time this was two buildings.”
Shurlow explained that everything in the building has to be redone if the structure is to successfully have more than one tenant. The building was designed with the elevator and staircase in the middle, which is fine for a single user, but wastes precious space and makes a design for multiple tenants nearly impossible. So Shurlow has to relocate the elevator shaft and the stairwell to the back of the building to make the project work.
Shurlow, who is handling the leasing herself, told the Business Journal last week that she already has received an offer for one of the top-floor condos. Historic renovation standards, however, won’t let her sell the condo for a few years. She plans to rent it out and then sell it when that period passes.
“I haven’t marketed the residential yet and I’ve just started to market the retail level.”