Renovation work starts today at the old Central Newsstand in downtown Rock Hill, where plans call for a cafe and coffee or ice cream shop once a facelift is complete.
John Rinehart of Rinehart Realty is handling the leasing for Main 7, a local investment group that bought the two-story building in spring 2005.
"The building will be brand new," Rinehart said. "The only thing that's being used is the brick frame. It is very much like starting over."
The owners have fielded a number of inquiries from prospects over the past two years. At least two have come close to signing. But each time, the deals didn't quite work out -- and the Newsstand remains one of the highest-profile vacancies in downtown.
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Rinehart says the renovations, estimated at between $300,000 and $400,000, are aimed at making the Main Street spot more attractive.
"Some folks just do not have the imagination to see a building renovated," Rinehart said. "Bryan (Barwick) did an outstanding job across the street. We've decided to go ahead and do the same. Once you see that, the inside is simply putting up walls."
Charlotte developer Bryan Barwick finished a full-scale rehab of the Professional Building in January. A Southern-themed restaurant will open on the first floor late this year.
Construction starts today
At the Newsstand, Rinehart envisions a coffee shop or ice cream parlor in the smaller space facing Hampton Street, and a retailer or cafe facing Main Street. Two office suites are available upstairs. The building will get a new roof, paint, windows and trim.
Tenants can get help through the city's new DowntownNow program, which makes money available for rent and business license fees.
When construction starts this morning at 8, Hampton Street will be closed between Main and Black through the afternoon, city officials said. Parking will be limited on that stretch until the work is finished.
Last year, restaurant owner Siler Chapman flirted with leasing the space, but the deal stalled, in part, because of a conflict over who should pay for a stairwell needed to meet the state's fire code. Chapman ended up at Millwood Plantation, a shopping center on the affluent northwest side of the city.
"It will be a key spot," Rinehart said. "We just want to make sure it is done the right way. That's why we've taken our time."
A gathering spot
The Newsstand was one of downtown's best-known businesses, a place where customers gathered daily since the 1940s to gossip and talk politics. Owner Jim Bazemore, known to many as "Baze," bought the business from his father-in-law, the late Jim Melton. Bazemore died in 2004.