Spartanburg’s revered Montgomery Building, filled with memories, is again open to the public.
After nearly two years of restoration and updating, the 94-year-old building at 187 N. Church St. is coming alive again after falling into disrepair.
It’s the latest success in Spartanburg’s ambitious approach to downtown revitalization.
On Dec. 6, invited dignitaries began strolling through just-reopened portions of the 10-story building, once home to a variety of corporate offices and public agencies and now a mixed-use project encompassing retail, commercial, and office space on its first three floors and 63 apartments on the upper seven floors.
The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2011 and purchased by co-owners James Bakker and Tom Finnegan of BF Spartanburg LLC in early 2017. The $29.5 million project was made feasible with historic tax credits.
“This deal almost fell apart four or five times” during the previous owner’s tenure, Finnegan said, when city officials were coping with falling debris and pondering demolition.
Nevertheless, he said, “The steel was in fantastic shape and so was the concrete,” and the building’s architectural heritage represented a grand opportunity to save a city landmark.
Finnegan remembers walking through the iconic structure and being captured by the richness of its design. “You felt like you were back in the ’20s, and it was just breathtaking,” he said.
During guided tours Dec. 6-8, visitors will note that “a lot of the building is either original or replicas,” he added.
Working with the architectural firm McMillan Pazdan Smith and Harper General Contractors, Finnegan and Bakker have sought to evoke the charm of The Montgomery Building in its heyday. Domed chandeliers light the marble hallway on the ground floor, and custom replicas of the building’s large, original windows bring in plentiful light. A vintage mailbox on the wall reminds passers-by of a time when upstairs tenants could drop a letter down a chute to be collected by the postman.
Setting up shop
As the grand opening drew near, a multimedia company became the third business to take space in the building in the wake of previous signings by Sidewall Pizza and Little River Roasting.
Arken Studios, a new four-person multimedia firm led by Andrew Cooke, will specialize in corporate portraits, real-estate photography, video production, and drone imaging. The business has leased 1,650 square feet of basement space and chose The Montgomery Building due to its downtown location and proximity to potential clients, said Cooke, an Air Force veteran. Arken Studios expects to be fully operational in January, he said.
Three other businesses are discussing leases within the street-level arcade, Finnegan said.
In the basement and on the second and third floors, the focus is office and commercial space. While floor plans are still in flux, the basement will likely house an incubator for early stage firms while the two other floors will host more established entrepreneurs and groups of employees from tech, banking, or insurance companies, for example. “For right now the idea, I think, is to have most of it be co-work space,” Finnegan said.
Providing some corporate space is critical, he noted, due to Spartanburg’s current scarcity of square footage downtown. “Anything over 5,000 square feet, you can’t do it,” he said. “There’s hardly any Class A office space available.”
Fiber-optic cable for businesses and residences runs through the building.
Living the high life
The Montgomery Building’s first residential tenant moves in on Dec. 8 and interest in the 62 remaining units is growing, said Alicia Abrahams, community manager for NHE, the firm that is showing and managing the apartments.
Because the city issued its certificate of occupancy on Nov. 19, prospective tenants were given a look at the new units during hard-hat tours prior to that date, Abrahams added.
Options range from a 431-square-foot studio renting for $975 to a 1,126-square-foot, two-bedroom/two-bath priced at $2,400.
Each unit includes a full range of appliances and features vinyl tile flooring simulating hardwood, cream-colored carpeting, light gray walls, and granite countertops. All units except suites include an island in the kitchen area, and each main hallway on floors four through 10 utilizes a black-and-white checkerboard pattern, a replica of the building’s original look.
For prospective tenants, views from the units’ large custom windows may clinch the deal.
“If you’re looking for more of a serene mountain view, then we’ve got one- and two-bedrooms that face that direction; if you’re looking more for the downtown skyline … we can accommodate that; and then of course if you’d like to see everything, we have apartments that are positioned on the building that have windows facing all directions. So there’s something for everyone,” Abrahams said.
Among the most notable views are the steeple of Central United Methodist Church, the building’s next-door neighbor, and Barnet Park, the launchpad for Fourth of July fireworks, she said.
As for parking, 150 spaces are set aside for tenants at the St. John Street garage, located 100 or so steps from the building’s residential entrance.
Connecting the dots
Finnegan and Bakker view the revival of The Montgomery Building as a catalyst for additional street activity from Wofford College to the corners of Church and St. John and down to Church and Main. The coming uptick in pedestrian traffic, Finnegan said, will be driven by downtown residents, college students, and out-of-towners, all of whom will now have more things to see and do.
Finnegan attributes “a real resurgence” in Spartanburg’s business climate to the openness and reliability of its civic leadership. “I can’t say enough great things about the people, the atmosphere, the attitude,” he said.
“We’re just excited we’re able to keep this building and bring this building back,” he said. “It’s a gem.”
Dec. 6: VIPs, 3 p.m.
Dec. 7: Public, 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m.
Dec. 8: Public, 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 11 a.m.