JFG Lofts Bring More Renting Potential to Old City

Converted from the former Old City coffee factory, the building's scheduled for summer occupancy.

JFG Flats

200 W. Jackson | 400 to 1,150 sq. ft. | Studio to 3 bdrm/2bath | $500 to $1,800/month | Contact: Dewhirst Properties | 971-3137

Last column, I commented on the fact that the number of condos currently for sale downtown was essentially equal to downtown's total number of owner-occupied homes a decade ago. Some, such as The Residences at Market Square, are actually new construction. But, for the most part, it's the conversion of historic buildings into housing that has added tremendously to the number of residential units downtown.

The trend started with older commercial and warehouse buildings—the Sterchi, Emporium, etc. And, as those old loft buildings began to run out, older office towers like the Burwell and Holston were converted to condos. Recently, however, condo conversion has come full circle. A fair number of those new condos on the market are in the Glencoe and Elliot buildings, originally built as residential.

Previously a pair of rundown rental properties, it's not surprising that the Glencoe and Elliot eventually rolled out of rental as the market for downtown condos grew. Despite all the debate about Tax-Increment-Financing and other subsidies, demand has always driven downtown's housing market. The subsidies were merely a mechanism to meet the demand.

Now, however, downtown's market finds itself in an opposite scenario from a decade ago. Ownership options now dominate the scene, unfortunately at a time when homeownership seems like a shaky proposition to many people. But, as before, the market has responded. Where condos were once king, downtown's redevelopment pipeline is populated with rental projects. Just the other day, I read a blurb about architect/developer Buzz Goss pitching to wrap the State Street garage with 136 rental units.

But when it comes to downtown rediscovering rental, David Dewhirst is once again out front. The developer is already pre-leasing units in the JFG Flats. Converted from the former Old City coffee factory, the building's scheduled for summer occupancy. And, economic downturn be damned, it's on track to be full up by then. According to a week-old Twitter post, almost half the 55 units are already spoken for.

It's easy to see why. The old Art Deco-style building is dripping with warehouse cool, updated with new double-pane windows and IKEA cabinets. And how many apartment buildings can boast a washer/dryer in every unit as well as a short walk to Market Square, not to mention iconic neon and the Old City out the front door? The pricier penthouse units also have rooftop access, while the four three-bedroom units have patios and private entries.