Downtown building has new owner

4:46 p.m Monday, Jan. 26, 2015 Community News

A prominent downtown building was sold for $250,000 last week, less than three months after it nearly went to auction.

The building at 4 W. Main St., also known as the National City Bank Building and the Fairbanks Building, was purchased by 4 West, LLC, which is owned by Robert Hull, a developer from Louisville, Ky.

It will be renamed Hull Plaza, in honor of his uncle, former Springfield attorney Anson E. Hull, who once had an office inside the building. The new owner is also planning to make some changes to the building’s facade.

“We’re very happy,” Hull said. “We’ve got a lot of plans for the building.”

After months of negotiating with former owner Usha Desai, LLC, the sale of the building was completed, Hull said.

Hull had been looking at the building for more than a year, but couldn’t come to an agreement with the owner. He initially lost the bidding war before an auction was abruptly cancelled last October, but was able to purchase the building after negotiations with another party fell through, he said.

“We thought we had lost it and in the end, we actually won,” Hull said.

The downtown PNC branch previously located in the building closed in 2012. Several other tenants, including the Springfield Foundation, have left the building in recent years.

Hull is hoping to increase occupancy in the building, as well as possibly bringing in a new banking tenant. He’s planning to meet next week with current tenants, which include The Turner Foundation and the Gorman, Henson, Veskauf and Wineberg law office.

“We’re going to be talking about the things that haven’t been done and the things we need to correct,” Hull said.

Mobile Dogs Cafe, a restaurant located inside the building at 10 W. Main St., will be expanding into the vacant space next to its current location, which has been in the works for nearly a year, said owner Jeff Wade. He is hoping to seat around 60 people in the expanded restaurant, which could be completed this summer.

Wade will also serve as building manager, working to renovate vacant areas in the nine-story, 72,000-square-foot-building. The building is currently about 35 percent occupied, Wade said.

“We’re hoping to get all the office spaces fixed up and try to fill this building,” Wade said.

A one-year special assessment note for about $230,000 was issued by the city of Springfield last summer to pay for sidewalk, curb and gutter repair at the property — which Hull agreed to pay on top of the purchase price as part of the terms of the sale.

The sidewalk was recently re-opened after three months of construction, but a few repairs still need to be made, Wade said. The repairs didn’t affect the restaurant’s business, he said.

“People still fought their way in here and that was a blessing,” Wade said. “I’ve got some pretty faithful customers.”

The Clark County Auditor’s Office has appraised the building at about $1.1 million. It was constructed in 1906 and was purchased by former owner Desai in 2004 for $1.8 million.

Last summer, the city spent about $1.2 million on a streetscape project, which included converting Fountain Avenue between Columbia and Main streets from one-way to two-way traffic, as well as new brick pavers, sidewalks, decorative street lights and repaving of the road.

The building is also located next to site of the city’s proposed $5 million-$10 million parking garage, which could be three stories and add 450 parking spaces. The city is currently using the site as a parking lot and is looking for money to build the garage.

The building’s sale is good news for downtown Springfield, said Center City Association Executive Director Bill Harless.

“It just shows that developers and business people see the future in downtown,” Harless said.

Restaurants and food vendors were very popular during First Friday events held downtown last summer, Harless said. Mobile Dogs’ expansion will provide an even greater selection for visitors, he said.

“It’s just going to add to the options people have and bring them downtown,” Harless said.