April 1st, 2004
BY HAWES SPENCER COPY@READTHEHOOK.COM
Less than a year after SNL Financial left its towering headquarters on the Downtown Mall, rock promoter Coran Capshaw has placed the structure under contract.
"We found it an attractive building," says Capshaw. "It has the potential to have a nice office and retail mix."
Capshaw says he hopes to create more room for shops on the building's Mall front and on its side at Fourth Street NW, which faces a vibrant row of small shops and galleries.
"It's cool-- I'm excited," says Andreas Gaynor, the owner of the lone business in the 42,000 square-foot structure, a coffee shop called City Centro. "We've had so many people come in and ask," says Gaynor, "I almost feel like I have a real estate license."
The broker for the deal was Bob Kahn, who listed the building late last fall for $3.75 million. The sales price is $2.9 million, according to Reid Nagle, SNL's chairman and founder.
According to city records, SNL bought the building in 1998 for $1.8 million and performed extensive renovations. The current city assessment is $4.3 million.
Built in 1955 as a branch of Miller & Rhoads, a Richmond-based department store chain, the structure originally featured several escalators. Gaynor, for one, would like to see the escalators return-- as a way to use the underground floor for, say, a grocery store. "That's just me," he says. "I don't have millions of dollars."
When Nagle got the building, it had already lost its escalators, and the prior owner, Jefferson National Bank, which used the place for back-office operations, had inserted a mezzanine into the once grand ground floor.
Above ground, the brick-clad building has five full stories-- including a penthouse garden which provided Nagle with a commanding view of the Downtown Mall and distant mountains.
"The terrace was built as the Miller & Rhoads tearoom, which many old-timers remember fondly," says Nagle.
SNL moved off the Mall last July after renovating the former headquarters of the Army's National Ground Intelligence Center, aka "the spy center," near Court Square.
Gaynor plans to shut down his coffee shop at the end of April and reinvent it across the street as a delicatessen called Fusion in the building housing the Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar.
As for Capshaw, his real estate dealings have generated beaucoup headlines recently. His name has been linked to a proposed downtown hotel envisioned by noted developer Lee Danielson, and his 225 Walker Square apartments are quickly rising by the Amtrak station in Fifeville. And after donating its use for the upcoming SPCA Rummage Sale, Capshaw plans to renovate the former Ivy Industries building as the new downtown Atlantic Coast Athletic Club.
One building Capshaw didn't purchase but renovated anyway is the former home of Mt. Zion Baptist Church. A massive Dave Matthews Band concert last fall in New York's Central Park helped raise $800,000 for creating the new home of the nonprofit Music Resource Center for local teens.
"I come into town on Fifth Street," says Capshaw, "and I kept seeing that church and thinking about it. I didn't want it to become a banquet center. No better use for the first African American church in this community comes to mind."