Construction has begun on a project to convert the old J.F. Kurfees Paint Company Building at the corner of Brook Street and East Market Street into mini-storage.
Aaron Willis, the Louisville connection of a development team from Atlanta, told Broken Sidewalk that 201 East Market Street will house a climate-controlled mini-storage facility. Last year, Willis unveiled his own plans to manage the project locally under his company Column Group, but ended up partnering with Atlanta-based mini-storage development company NitNeil Partners.
Repeated requests for information from NitNeil went unanswered over the past two weeks and a phone call to Nitesh Sapra, a principal with the company, was not returned by press time. NitNeil did contact Business First‘s Marty Finley for a story that ran today.
Finley reported that NitNeil will build over 600 self-storage units targeted toward people living in the city core who don’t have much storage space. Interior demolition work has already begun and plans call for replacing outdated mechanical systems in the 110,000-square-foot building. New lighting and signage is also slated for the exterior, which will largely appear the same following renovations.
Willis brought Louisville’s Joseph & Joseph Architect on board to design the project—the same firm that designed the structure in the first place a century ago—but it appears NitNeil has gone another direction. According to Finley, Louisville architect Edward Eiche is now working on the design, Louisville-based Land Design & Development is serving as engineer, and Atlanta-based Griffco Design Build will be general contractor.
The exterior structure will largely remain the same, with repairs, but the building’s original windows are expected to be replaced with more energy-efficient new ones. On a trip to the building in October, we spotted the above sample window on the facade which is likely the type that will be used.
Willis said he was not familiar with the final window choice but noted that window mullions would mirror the patterning of the originals. Those old windows are in high demand in cities like New York and Chicago, and Willis said they will be salvaged if possible by a third party, but he did not know if that group would scrap them for materials or reuse them as a building product.
A rendering of the project indicates a large illuminated sign on the corner, which stands out quite noticeably for such a passive urban use such as mini-storage.
Willis told Broken Sidewalk he previously considered other uses for the building, like a boutique hotel or apartments, but said a lack of parking made him believe the mini-storage concept was a better fit. When we first spoke to Willis in December 2014, he said retail could be installed on the first floor, but this Fall he was more reluctant, again citing the parking issue and a lack of street vitality in this part of downtown. Sapra made no mention of retail in his interview, and renderings show mini-storage visible from the sidewalk level.
Despite hundreds of employees located a block away at Humana and other employers, the area around Brook and Market streets maintains a sleepy, car-dominated tone. The area is more known for the alleged World’s Largest White Castle than for an active street life, a notion reinforced by the recent closing of the popular Hillbilly Tea restaurant a block to the west.
Tides could be turning for the area, however. Within a few blocks of the Kurfees Building, the University of Louisville’s Nucleus block is growing, a new Aloft Hotel just opened at First and Main street, Jackie Green is hoping to create energy on the corner of First and Market, new apartments are set to open at the Ice House Lofts, and work slowly presses on at the Whiskey Row Block where Brown-Forman is building an Old Forester Distillery and investors are converting three warehouses into a mixed-use project. What will it take to create a critical momentum that sustains activity in the area?
Willis said if the area changes and proves viable for apartments or offices, then another group could potentially buy the building for conversion to another use. He said just as likely, a national mini-storage REIT could purchase the building years from now, likely cementing its use as mini-storage for a longer future.
The western half of the brick-and-stone Beaux Arts–style building dates to 1915, and an identical addition was built a decade later. The complex stands four-stories tall and features sturdy concrete construction. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013.
In January, the Courier-Journal‘s Sheldon Shafer reported that Willis’ group successfully rezoned the property to accommodate the mini-storage use.
“The Louisville Metro Planning Commission voted unanimously Thursday to recommend that Louisville Metro Council approve a requested change from heavy-commercial to enterprise zoning to allow the project,” Shafer wrote. “No one opposed the request at the commission public hearing.”
According to Finley’s report, NitNeil will seek out a five-year moratorium on local taxes due to the project investment under Metro Louisville’s Tax Assessment Moratorium program.
NitNeil has developed mini-storage in the downtown areas of Charleston, Durham, Chattanooga, and Greenville, S.C., according to its website. All of those projects are in new-construction buildings. Another locally developed self-storage warehouse opened in 2010 at the former Boland Maloney Property in Butchertown just outside Downtown.
Louisville’s mini-storage project is expected to open by summer 2016.