The 1200 block of Broadway, with its assortment of smaller two-story buildings has become attractive to smaller investors looking to score the perfect spot for a restaurant or business.
One of those is Pat Daniel, owner of the Forest Road Package Store.
A year ago, Daniel's husband, attorney Steve Hodges, asked his wife what she wanted her "second act to be" after building a successful business.
The Forest Road store had helped put Hodges through law school, and he wanted the new focus to be on Daniel and her wishes. She was clear -- she wanted a liquor store in downtown Columbus, a place the couple frequent.
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"I just thought it would be a great adventure," Daniel said last week.
After looking at possible locations, Daniel settled on 1208 Broadway, a 9,600 square-foot site that previously housed a golf shop on the northeast end of the block. It is tucked into two sides of the 1200 Broadway building.
She purchased the building in April 2015 for $365,000 and plans to open Uptown Wine & Spirits by the end of April this year.
But there has been little wonder about what they are doing. Extensive renovations started last year, and they have been dealing with the surprises that an old building -- especially one that was a livestock stable in the late 1800s -- can offer.
The construction crews have found poured concrete over a rotten joist,
unknown fire damage, and a wall that was extended into a back alley that separated her building from the old Raymond Rowe store.
"You know, it has all worked out," she said. "That's just part of it."
There has been extensive work done to the structure to allow the floors to hold the liquor, wine and beer the business will sale. The entire second floor will be used for storage, Daniel said.
Daniel is not the only one redoing old buildings in the block.
Columbus real estate developer Chris Woodruff bought two side-by-side buildings, 1230 and 1232 Broadway, in 2006. For nearly 10 years, they have been waiting for development in other parts of downtown to move in that direction. Last year, Woodruff hired Brasfield & Gorrie to stabilize the buildings and prepare them for the development that is coming.
The two buildings -- both two-story structures -- have a combined 10,000 square feet, Woodruff said. There is also a shared 1,500-square-foot courtyard behind them. A company Woodruff owns, Uptown Cotton LLC, is developing the property. He is not ready to say what exactly will locate in the two buildings, saying it will be a mixed-use commercial development with multiple tenants.
Development pace quickens
Kara Layfield purchased the building at 1234 Broadway and moved her fitness workout business from the 1100 block to the 1200 block about a year and a half ago.
She knew change was coming because rumors of the sale of the Ledger-Enquirer building at the corner of Broadway and 12th were persistent. But she admits she did not think it would move at this pace.
"It is all happening quicker than I thought. When I moved in, it was just myself, the Vietnamese restaurant, Philly-osphy, the finance companies," she said. "The rest was just everybody throwing around ideas and talking. I didn't see it going under construction all at one time."
There are about eight buildings currently under construction in the 1200 block. It includes at least one restaurant, a liquor store, a technology firm and residential and office space.
There is also another sign the block is making progress, Layfield said.
"The parking enforcement folks have been in our block a lot more," she said.
But she doesn't see that as a huge issue.
"The mindset is changing," she said. "People are now realizing that you are going to have to park and walk. But it is going to be tight until all the people get used to that."
Not all of the people feel the way Layfield does. Steve Priester owns three of the five finance companies in the block. They have been there for years and now parking is an issue, he said. In years past, the finance companies didn't have a lot of competition for the public parking spaces in the 1200 block.
"Our main concern is a lack of parking," Priester said. "There is nowhere for our people to park."
There is also another change coming to the block. Downtown Columbus has become a hub for outdoor fitness and the activities that come with that. There are a number of organized runs and bike rides that start in downtown.
Big Dog Running Company will be moving to a temporary location in the 1200 building at the northeast corner of Broadway and 12th Street later this month, and then into a permanent location at 1228 Broadway.
The store hosts on average two runs a month, and it plans to move the start/finish lines from those runs from the 1000 block area down to the 1200 block closer to the new location.
"I am excited about Big Dog moving down there," Layfield said. "If you look now, a lot of those at Uncommon Athlete on First Avenue train by running down our block of Broadway."
Another merchant that is glad to hear about the possible move of the Big Dog events into the 1200 block is Garrett Lawrence who, along with his partners Miles Greathouse and Robert Battle, purchased 1239 Broadway last year. The building is under renovation, and they plan to open a craft beer bar in early April.
"Runners like beer," Lawrence said.
The restaurant/bar is going to be called Nonic and modeled after places such as Porter Beer Bar in Atlanta's Little Five Points and Brickstore Pub in Decatur, Ga., Lawrence said.
"They view food and beer on an elevated level," Lawrence said.
Greathouse and Lawrence have been operating Maltitude, a 1000-block Broadway craft beer and wine store, for more than two years. Trevor Morris, owner of Trevioli Artisan Pasta in north Columbus, was going to partner in the restaurant but is no longer in the mix, Lawrence said. Nonic plans to announce its food partner in the coming weeks, Lawrence said.
The 1200 block was attractive to the beer guys for a number of reasons, Lawrence said.
"One, it is not developed yet," he said. "And to develop Broadway that is where it needed to move. It's also affordable, but I don't know how much longer that will continue."
Woodruff said the reason for smaller investors now has a lot to do with the past and those who paved the way for what is happening in the 1200 block.
"I believed in what the stakeholders within Uptown were doing to make it a better place," said Woodruff, who is an independent commercial agent for the W.C. Bradley Real Estate brokerage firm, but his development is not part of the company's downtown investment. "Uptown Columbus Inc., Columbus State University, W.C. Bradley Co., and individual investors like Buddy Nelms were all part of the institutional, corporate and private investment that made all of this happen. I think a lot of people had faith in the stakeholders when they said what Uptown would be."
The 1200 block is the last fully undeveloped block on Broadway.
"This didn't just start now," Woodruff said. "It has been silently moving for years. It is validation of all the progress that has happened and will continue to happen for years to come.
But why are the big and small investors coming to the table now?
"The answer to that is there is a market there, the investors are clearly there and there is a belief they will be successful there," Woodruff said.
Because of what has happened in other parts of downtown, those investing in the 1200 block have an advantage, Woodruff said.
"I think we enjoy a higher level of opportunity for success," he said. "And there are more opportunities to be had in the 1200 block."