The good news keeps pouring in for Old Louisville‘s Oak Street corridor. We recently surveyed the strengths and challenges of the street as its streetscape improvement project is wrapping up and profiled an amazing adaptive reuse project to create hundreds of jobs in the area. Now, the Arden Building, a two-story, Tudor mixed-use structure on the corner of Second and Oak streets, has been sold and will be renovated including some new neighborhood-serving retail.
Alex Parets moved to Louisville from his native New York a few months ago after tiring of his finance job in Greenwich, Connecticut. This summer, he began looking at cities where he could begin investing in real estate. He first considered Charleston, SC, but quickly realized that city presented challenges to entering the market. “I felt like I missed the boat a little bit,” Parets said.
“I was thinking about what worked for Charleston and what I would look for in another city. I came up with a list: it’s a young city, it’s a college town with a population that employers could draw upon, it has an historic appeal and a tourism appeal—it has its own culture—with antebellum architecture. A real identity,” Parets said. He began looking at other cities and liked that he saw in Louisville. “I was thinking, ‘Wow, this is exactly what I am looking for.’ It does in certain ways feel like a city you can see in ten years building itself up like Charleston did.”
The next step was to find a property. “I found this Oak Street Hardware building and it all made sense,” he said. The property had been listed for $460,000. The building’s previous owner, Lee Jones, also owns the building’s anchor retail tenant, Oak Street Hardware. Jones is retiring and will close the store by the end of the year. He had previously considered moving the store to another building west on Oak Street with help from a $40,000 METCO loan that stabilized the building.
Parets said his initial plans include restoring the building’s original early-20th century architectural details and filling the corner space with a new retail concept that would serve the neighborhood. He has been in discussions with some of Louisville’s leading chefs to open a casual fried chicken restaurant and bar in the space. He plans to invest in the business but stay behind the scenes of its day-to-day operations. “Genscape is moving down the street and they’re going to want a place to get lunch,” Parets said. “Right now, there’s no place you can even get delivery.”
Currently, the 14,500 square foot building is fully occupied with five tenants: an upholsterer, an antique store, a barber shop, a salon, and Jones’ hardware store. Parets said he doesn’t want to go in with a heavy-handed approach of raising rents across the board.
He believes in the retail potential of Old Louisville, with its density and increasingly wealthy population, but is confused that so little retail exists there currently. “I don’t really understand Old Louisville because it does have a really big population, yet there’s nothing there. It’s such a bizarre thing. There should be retail there—it can handle it,” Parets said.
Upstairs, the building’s ten apartments—eight studios and two single-bedroom units—are also fully leased. Parets said he will renovate and modernize the units as they become available.
But redeveloping the Arden Building might only be Parets’ first big move in Louisville. He said he is looking around for other underutilized properties in Louisville’s core and is considering the feasibility of taking on more projects—he said he already has friends from New York calling who are interested in investing in his Louisville initiatives. But for now, Parets is focusing on restoring Oak Street.