by Michele Newbern Gillis
Nanette Upchurch owns a historic building on the Southbank and wants to lease space in the building. But the City won’t allow it, saying the building is unsafe.
“We have some problems with building permit issues that have yet to be rectified to our satisfaction,” said Joe Miller, director of public works for the City. “I want to refrain from further comment because of pending legal action.”
Because her building at 1001 Kings Ave. is a historic landmark, certain conditions must be met before the Public Works Department can allow more than one tenant to occupy the building.
“At one point the building was vacant,” said Tom Goldsbury, chief of building inspection division for the Public Works Department. “They came in with plans to put a tenant in the third floor. We looked at plans and one of problems was that they needed to fire rate their exiting staircase [to give a safe exit in case of a fire] that went to third floor.”
Goldsbury told Upchurch that she needed to go to Building Code Adjustment Board before anything could happen.
“So she took her plans and situation there and we [Public Works Department] went there as well,” said Goldsbury. “The board agreed that she didn’t need to fire rate that stairwell, but the building had to remain a single tenant occupancy.”
So she moved her own business, Consultech, a technology school, to the third floor.
“Since then, she has moved in a tenant on the second floor [Integras technologies] without a permit and violated the Building Code Adjustment Board variance,” said Goldsbury. “We are in the process of taking her to court. Now, she has come to put in a third tenant on the first floor so we have a problem with that.”
Currently there is an “office for rent” sign in the window of the building, but before anyone can rent the space, Upchurch needs to rectify her violation of the building code variance.
“We are asking her to get an architect in the building to see if he can make the necessary adjustments,” said Goldsbury. “We look at various options, she can do various things. She would then need to go back to the board to get an adjustment. Because it is a historic building it allows us to not follow the code exactly, which is what we are trying to do to help her, but we’d like her to cooperate.”
Upchurch doesn’t see any options.
“They want it brought up to new construction code and it is technologically and economically unfeasible, so I’m stuck,” said Upchurch. “I have people clamoring for that space, but I’ve rejected three people so far.”
Safety is first and foremost on the department’s agenda.
“We want it to be safe for those tenants,” said Goldsbury. “I’m even concerned about the tenants that are in there now. I wonder if they are even aware that there isn’t certificate of occupancy for the building.”
Upchurch has owned the building for three years.
“The building is a local landmark and we’ve had a lot of battles with the Public Works Department because they don’t want us to lease the space,” said Upchurch. “I’ve had it leased three times and had to reject them because the Public Works Department wouldn’t allow me to put more tenants in the building. I realize the situation with the Public Works Department isn’t going to get any better so I am going to try and least it again.”
Each floor of the building a little over 4,000 square feet. She has already rented half of the space on the first floor.
“I have a hold on 2,300 square feet by Studio Interior Design Associates, but the City is putting pressure on them not to rent here,” said Upchurch. “They won’t give the tenants the permits to do the tenant improvements, so I have to do them in violation of Public Works Department and pay a fine.“
But the reason they can’t get the permits is they are not supposed to be there in the first place.
Currently, she has 1,800 square feet available at $15.50 a square-foot.
“I have 1,800 square feet available unless my other tenant decides not to rent here, then I will have 4,300 square feet available,” said Upchurch. “There is reserved parking up to three spaces for that location. It would be perfect for an attorney, any professional services, anybody who wants to rent in a really fun area or who wants a unique space. There is no space like this in this neighborhood. This is the only commercial historic landmark on this side of the river that I know of. We are close to many restaurants, the Skyway station is in our back yard so we have easy access to downtown. I think that is totally cool.”
Upchurch thinks the building was constructed in the late 1800s. When she bought the building three years ago, she did several things to bring back to its original look.
“We started in early 1999, returning the exterior to the original and put in an elevator,” said Upchurch. “We cleaned the brick on the inside, cleaned and freshened up the building and put in new windows. The space that is for lease needs tenant improvements. It has air conditioning, electric and is plumbed for a bathroom.”