Developers Gant Hill and Jonathan Blue have been mulling over their Molee Building on Muhammad Ali Boulevard between Fourth and Fifth Streets for several years, but now they tell Broken Sidewalk “the project is being moved to the front burner” and we could see construction as soon as next summer.
Hill and Blue plan to convert the five-story building into a mix of apartments and retail appealing to a younger demographic in the heart of Downtown. They have recently been brainstorming with the Downtown Development Corporation about what young professionals value in urban living.
Gant Hill says it’s important to determine the values of the future tenants to keep the project affordable. “There’s no use including granite countertops if that’s not what our tenants want. Maybe they would prefer to have free Internet instead. We don’t want to load up the building with expensive features like doormen.”
Right now, developers hope to add 30–35 apartments ranging from 700 to 800 square feet with rents around one dollar per square foot. To keep costs down, apartment layouts will be simple and arranged around a central light well that Hill said will offer some unique layouts. The team has discussed the project with architects, but hasn’t officially brought one on board.
Built in 1908, the structure originally housed the Young Women’s Club. While the scale and ornament of the Molee Building is more austere than some surrounding buildings, it’s still a solid urban building that can add density to the center of the city and Hill and Blue believe the timing is right to get the project moving.
The Molee Building has been vacant for about four years, but could help to add to the resurgence of Fourth Street and Downtown overall. Imagine a few balconies punched into the east facade overlooking the park. We’ll be keeping an eye on this one.
I think it’s great there will be more affordable downtown housing. It was a mistake to focus on higher end developments since their isn’t enough money here to provide for sufficient density downtown. There are plenty of young professionals who wind up buying in suburbs and living in suburbs because that is what they can afford.
This is terrific. Conceptualizing apartments that young pros will want is a great idea, and the price point is the most reasonable in the central business district that I have heard in a long time. Love this project.
Also, didn’t know that Jonathan Blue was in the development business. I’m glad to see it. His business acumen is evident with his entertainment firm. I hope he does more downtown developments.
Is there a possibility of a rooftop garden? Perhaps one that produces vegetables and herbs for the tenants, or even a restaurant on the ground floor.
Patrick, I agree using the roof for something like a garden would be a great idea. Gant Hill says there had been interest recently from someone who was interested in using the roof for something, possibly a bar. Hill was unsure what would eventually happen to the roof, especially if the building ends up entirely residential, but said he hoped they could do something interesting with the roof.
Glad there may be some new, affordable housing options for younger professionals downtown. I hope we continue to see more of these types of projects.
We appreciate the feedback from everyone and look forwrd to more thoughts and suggestions. Anyone is welcome to contact me if they have ideas that may help us create a better landmark for our city. Thanks! Gant Hill Gant@GantHill.com
The Legal Aid Society (LAS)was located in the Molee Bldg. for almost 20 years. It is a very solid building with a lot of interier concrete walls. The KY ACLU was also there for a few years. The righthand side of the first floor had several failed restaurants over the past years. The only successful one was Jeff’s Gastronomy, which closed upon the divorce of the owners, probably in the late 1980s or so. Nothing after that was successful. Murphy’s Camera Center was the other first floor tenant (on west side of the building. They consolidated their business on Bardstown Road, their current location.
I understood that, previously, the building was housing for single young women working downtown. I thought it was called the Young Women’s Business Association or something close to that. It was a residence with showers and other amenities still throughout the building.
The Legal Aid Society moved across the street in, I think, 2006. I left their employment in 2005. The name Molee came from combining the first parts of the first names of the owners, Morris and Lee Weinberg, at the time LAS moved in. The folks building the Galleria wanted to tear down this building for parking. Between the Weinbergs and a very favorable 15 year lease, LAS moved in after some renovation. Previously, LAS had been located at 317 S. Fifth Street with a branch office on Guthrie Green. The Fifth Street spot is now a parking lot next to the Wendy’s at Fifth and Liberty.