Loft Lifestyle Attracting Renters
The Jonesboro Sun - July 25, 2003
Ted Herget moved his residence to downtown Jonesboro for economic reasons. Now, he tells a visitor, he loves the simple loft lifestyle and has no plans to move.
Herget is among a growing number of individuals who occupy loft apartments above downtown businesses. Several developers have taken note and are converting more second-story space for residential rental.
At least eight lofts are occupied, and work is underway on 10 more.
Herget said he bought the building at 230 South Main a year ago and moved in two months later. "It was a cost thing," he said during a recent interview on the patio at the rear of his loft.
"My background is in accounting, and I looked at the numbers," he added. He said a structure on South Flint where he first opened a sports-oriented business had 750 square feet. In the relocation, he picked up 5,000 square feet of space on the first floor for Gearhead Outfitters. In addition, he wound up with 2,300 square feet for two lofts on the second floor.
Herget and his wife occupy the larger of the two lofts, while the manager of his store lives in the smaller of the two.
"At my age (29), everyone loves it," Herget said. "It's simple living.
"It's kind of hard to screw up 100-year-old brick walls and 100-year-old wood floors," he said of the renovation work.
"The momentum is swinging in our direction. The lifestyle is unbelievable.
"How many people can you name who live 10 feet from their office?"
While Herget was explaining the benefits of downtown living, Jo Ann Smith of Jonesboro was getting a tour of an almost complete loft apartment in the building at 236 South Main.
Four generations of Smith's family owned or worked in the Elder & Stevens men's clothing store which was housed in the latter building. Smith operated a clothing store for women in the building after the men's store closed.
Acquired by the Huntington Development Group in 1986, it was sold to Jim and Bonnie Goad in 2003, and the renovation work began early this year.
The front portion of the building was restored for four offices, and a portion of the lower level will be used for overflow storage for Goad's accounting firm.
"The preservation of 236 South Main has been a fun and sometimes frustrating learning experience," Bonnie said. "We tried to retain as much of the antiquity of the old wood as money would allow."
She said renovation of the 2,400 square feet on the second floor for a loft should be completed in a matter of days, and the living area will be available for rental.
Transoms above the old interior doors were repaired and retained. One interior door has a glass panel indicating the room once served as an office for a dentist.
The bedroom areas of the loft didn't have any closet space, Bonnie explained, so some 30-feet of closet space was developed off a main east-west hallway.
Clay Young has acquired four buildings on South Main and is developing three of the four for retail and office space on the lower levels and lofts on the second floors.
He said the two 900-square-foot lots above the building at 330 South Main will rent for $600 and $700 a month. The rear unit with a patio will draw the higher rent.
Young said modern security systems, exposed electrical conduit and exposed central heat and air ventilation systems are part of loft living, along with exposed antique brick walls.
"I'm getting a lot of calls from single professionals," Young said. One Houston resident who visits a relative in Jonesboro frequently already has paid a deposit on one loft, and Young said deposits have been put down on two other lofts.
Young is developing six lofts -- four one-bedroom units and two two-bedroom apartments -- in two buildings on the west side of the 200 block of Main.
Once the work is finished, he will start on a fourth building, he said. He said a number of individuals who have moved to Jonesboro previously lived in areas where lofts were popular. "It's appealing," he added. "It's not your two-bedroom, one-and-one-half bath set up." Developers said their planned rental fees will be in line with conventional residential property. Young said he plans to rent his one-bedroom lofts with 1,000 square feet for $700 a month and the two-bedroom units with a 1,300-square-foot floor plan for $850.
Businessman Kent Arnold said he is finishing up two lofts above his offices at 312 South Main. Each loft will include about 2,500 feet.
"Some might be bothered by the rental costs, but they need to take into consideration that it costs more to renovate than to build new," Arnold said.
The bulk of the 400 block of South Main has been developed for retail and residential, Arnold added. He said most of the available space in the 300 block already has been targeted for renovation, and "the 200 block has sort of taken off like wildfire."
Nancy Chrisman, executive director of the Jonesboro Central Planning Association, said bringing residences to the area is a vital key to downtown restoration.
Young's plans to open a small "market" in the rear of the building at 330 South Main will be a major stimulus, she added.
While Chrisman and Young were talking in a downtown cafe Thursday, a local attorney stopped at their table to discuss his plans for renovating another old building for his growing law firm.
A limited number of loft apartments have existed in the downtown area for more than 20 years, but it was only recently that the city's zoning code allowed residential development in a commercial zone.
By Larry Fugate
Sun Managing Editor