Almost two years since California developer/preservationist Gayle Guynup purchased the old train depot, the exterior renovations to the 130-year-old building are complete.
“We haven’t done much to the interior to this point,” Guynup said during a telephone interview Tuesday from her home in Santa Rosa, California. “Our first priority was to restore the building to its original footprint. The building was in pretty bad condition. It has been vacant for 20 years, so there was a lot of work that had to be done. We put on a new roof and we also removed an addition that had been built later that was in extremely poor condition.”
The former train depot, located at the corner of Main Street and 13th Street South near Mississippi University for Women, will soon be home to a mixed-use development with both commercial and residential tenants. Guynup said work on the building’s interior will soon begin, and she hopes to have 75 percent of the building occupied within the next nine months.
“We would have loved to have had a single tenant that could have taken over the whole property,” she said. “Initially, we thought it would be a great site for a micro-brewery, but the state laws there don’t allow microbreweries to sell their products on-site, which is really unfortunate.”
Guynup said plans call for the construction of apartments on the second floor of the building, about 5,000 square feet total, with the first floor divided among multiple commercial tenants.
Guynup has been a major player in the city’s preservation efforts for the past 13 years. Her association with Columbus began when her father purchased Gateway Shopping Center about 30 years ago. Now in charge of her family’s trust, the lawyer and judge has made preserving old buildings a key part of her investment strategy. Guynup purchased the depot in August 2014 and had previously purchased and renovated three other old downtown buildings — The OddFellows Building, the Parker Furniture Building and the Alford Drug Store building.
Royce Hudspeth of Rhett Real Estate, who has managed several other Guynup-owned properties in the city, said he is hopeful he has secured one major tenant already for the depot, though he did not identify it.
“We have a letter of intent from one group,” Hudspeth said. “They would occupy about 3,500 square feet, which would be about half of the total ground-floor space.”
The apartments, meanwhile, will be built by Gene Reid Construction, another long-time member of Guynup’s team in Columbus. Reid was responsible for the exterior renovations.
“I think right now, we’re tentatively looking at four to five apartments, most likely four,” said Reid, adding once the permits are approved, the apartments should take six to nine months to complete. “What we’re probably going to do is build two small, efficiency-type apartments, plus two to three larger apartments.”
Hudspeth said the apartments are a natural fit for the building considering its location.
“We definitely feel the proximity to The W is a plus,” Hudspeth said. “We believe there will be a demand for those apartments from the start.”
Hudspeth said occupancy rates for the eight apartments in Guynup’s Oddfellows Building on Main Street are in the 95-percent range.
The renovation of the depot, Guynup said, is a key development in restoring downtown to its former glory.
“Really, there were only a couple of eyesores remaining, the depot and the (Gilmer Hotel),” she said. “I was excited to hear that something is happening at the hotel site and now, with what we’re doing at the depot, I think it’s a real sign of progress.”
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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