In the past few months, new apartment units have sprouted in fertile ground running along St. Francis and St. Louis streets, adjacent to both an entertainment district and a burgeoning tech corridor, now found around downtown Mobile’s new “millennial-friendly” Central Business District (CBD).
The 15-unit, mixed-use Temple Lodge and Lofts space recently held an open house, sponsored by NAI Mobile, and is opening a mere block north of iconic eatery Wintzell’s Oyster House. Some of the units, on the corner of St. Francis and North Warren streets, are move-in ready.
Walk, Uber, Segway, bike and/or drive another three blocks east to 450 St. Louis St., the epicenter of a burgeoning LoDa technology corridor, and across the street you’ll find the 38-unit, 53,000-square-foot mixed-used (commercial and residential) 150-year-old Wheeler Lofts apartment complex, currently buzzing with construction and an anticipated opening date of January 2019.
Collectively the new sites will offer more than 50 new apartments available for lease, smack dab in the middle of Mobile’s high-energy downtown CBD.
What’s really being sold, however, is a fly-on-the-wall and finger-on-the-pulse perspective for new tenants to plug into a wide swath of work and play activities fostered downtown for the past few years.
Here are details on the two complexes, including how construction is progressing.
Temple Lodge and Lofts, 558 St. Francis St.
John and William Peebles of NAI Mobile recently hosted a “not ready for prime time” open house reception for the Temple Lodge and Loft historic apartment property complex, currently approaching 90 percent completion in and around the corner of St. Francis and North Warren streets.
The site was originally set up circa 1850. NAI Mobile worked solely with local partners (a first), who invested two years and upward of $2.5 million in capital investments to repurpose and renovate the historic building footprint.
Interior design consists of high ceilings, bricks and exposed timber. According to William Peebles, the design will contribute to an authentic “19th century ambience” for tenants who lease space in the studio floor plans. Additionally, eight of the 10 apartments are already in the process of having lease contracts written prior to the official opening.
“The space was the home for an African-American Masonic lodge dating from 1890 to 2010, and the naming of the mixed-use property is in reference to this 120-year occupancy,” John Peebles, managing partner with NAI Mobile, said.
The local architect on the project was Douglas Kearley, who designed the property. ServisFirst Bank was the loan capital partner on the project.
On the ground floor, 5,000 square feet will be dedicated to commercial space. Peebles said a Dallas-based coffee shop is planning to occupy the St. Francis and Warren “hard corner” of the ground floor. Remaining space will possibly be acquired by a small, out-of-town advertising agency.
Across the street, the five built-from-scratch Temple Lodge Townhomes are roughly 80 percent complete. They will be trilevel complexes consisting of a parking garage (ground floor), kitchen and living quarters (second floor) and bedrooms (third floor), with each floor encompassing roughly 500 square feet. Covered parking will be adjacent to the lot that will be available to Temple Loft tenants across the street.
Wheeler Lofts, 450 St. Louis St.
Bestor Ward’s family owns the entire block of Wheeler Apartments. His great-uncle bought the main part of the block in 1933. Ward continued to buy the rest of the surrounding property, the final addition an 1800s-era horse stable perpendicular to the main building
The property was first known as the Wheeler Motor Co., which opened in 1927 and closed in 1932, and is the genesis of the name for the apartment complex.
Rob Middleton of Mobile-based Rob Middleton Construction will be completing all of the parking lot work. Project management will be handled by David Middleton from Point Clear-based SCC Group. If construction efforts progress according to plan, Ward expects the new complex to be open for business by January 2019. Opportunities to lease space will start in September 2018, based on estimated construction timelines.
Ward said the initial idea for his vision to make his traditionally commercial family property into mixed-use apartment living units began a dozen years ago when he visited New Orleans on a joint trip with Downtown Mobile Alliance President and CEO Elizabeth Stevens. The project broke ground two years ago.
Ward was quick to emphasize federal and state historical tax credits played a major part in making his renovation plans a reality. “It would not have happened without the Alabama historic tax credits existing,” he said. The tax credit contribution assistance on the project, geared toward defrayment of building costs, Ward said, exceeded $1 million.
The space will have 38 apartments, each with a window view. Four parking lots sit on the property that, in total, can accommodate up to 75 cars.
The main Wheeler Building footprint covers some 45,500 square feet; 6,000 square feet is dedicated to retail and restaurant space and 39,500 square feet of apartment space. The building will house 34 one-bedroom and two-bedroom units (equally divided).
The 1800s-era horse stable property encompasses 7,500 square feet — 4,000 square feet dedicated to office space and 3,500 square feet to four loft-design apartments. Three of the lofts will be one-bedroom units; the fourth, a 1,400-square-foot, three-bedroom unit on the second floor, and has already been leased.
Per Ward, none of the units will be available for purchase, in order to comply with one of the Alabama historic tax-credit mandates.
Ward said unit pricing will run $1.60 per square foot on all apartment spaces, translating to $1,400 per month (one bedroom units) to more than $1,700 per month (two-bedroom unit).
For more information about either property, visit their websites or contact the Downtown Mobile Alliance.