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MLK block to get new life for local business

Home to several businesses since the early 1900s, including a nickel and dime store owned by the Tenenbaum family and most recently, Thrifty Supply Center, the 300 block of Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. is getting a facelift and a new life.

“The plan is to restore the entire (exterior) block and then work with the tenants on the individual upgrades, but the project is really geared towards small- to medium-sized local businesses,” said Lindsay Nevin, president of Flyway, a Charleston-based restoration, development and real estate company.

Upon completion, Nevin expects the multi-unit project to be about a $20 million investment for the company, which acquired the property about 18 months ago for just over $4 million.

Flyway has partnered with Savannah-based Brooks Construction Group and architectural firm Sottile & Sottile to bring the 60,000-square-feet of space on the block to life. The ground floor, which is about 25,000 square-feet, will be devoted to retail and the upper floor will be marketed as offices.

“We’re very targeted and specific in our approach to bring tenants into the space, so the curation of the tenant mix of this building is ultimately what we feel like is going to make the space successful,” he said.

Keeping old with new

Crews are actively working on the north end of the block that, for almost 60 years, was home to Thrifty Supply Center. The store closed in September 2015, but memories of the longtime Savannah hardware store will remain in the new project, according to Nevin.

“The plan is to leave the entire block as it has always been and just restore it to what it was in its heyday,” he said.

That includes the decades-old painted advertisements for mailboxes, paint and other home improvement items hidden in the rear part of the old Thrifty building. With its high ceiling, roll-up garage door and small outdoor courtyard, Nevin said the back portion of the space would be ideal for a restaurant or small music or entertainment venue.

“The authenticity associated with the parts and pieces that are left here are really what we were drawn to as a developer and those are the pieces of this project that are the most critical for us to save and ultimately highlight in the project,” he said.

Nevin said he expects the exterior renovation to be completed by the end of the year and possibly another 18 to 24 months to get the tenants settled and the interiors finished. There will also be off-street parking with space for 30 to 35 parking spaces.

Projects with local history in mind

Nevin, who began his career building homes, founded Flyway in 2008. The company has been involved in multiple projects in Charleston, including partial renovation of the old city jail and converting an old Exxon gas station into a barbecue joint.

The MLK Boulevard development is Flyway’s second project in Savannah. Nevin and his team are entering the final stages of their Dixon Park project across town at the corner of Henry and East Broad streets. The development included new construction and renovations of existing buildings into apartments as well as one commercial space and should be complete in June.

“We do a lot of historic renovation work. Most of our commercial projects really focus on trying to help support the local community and identifying projects in high-growth corridors,” he said of the company.

“We like to think we see things that others don’t from time to time and this gives us the ability to actually restore the buildings, keep them as they were and provide relatively affordable commercial space…”

Revitalization along the historic westside street has been gaining steam in the last couple of years and with several hotel projects in the pipeline, new businesses and the cultural arts center under construction to the north. Nevin said his project is geared toward the local community he feels like it’s a good location for future growth.

“… By saving the buildings we also hope that we’re paying homage to the historical aspect of this corridor, which in its heyday was the African-American corridor of downtown Savannah,” he said.

Creating affordable space

Nevin said he also hopes the space will be a new and more affordable option for local businesses that are facing higher rents on Broughton Street and other locations downtown. Depending on what their needs are, there could be as many as 10 retailers on the block. Three shops currently on the block — Universe Trading Company, Ye Olde Herb Shoppe and Kustom Hustle Tattoo — will remain.

“The local component is really what we’re trying to push and that’s ultimately what we feel like is going to make this project successful,” he said.

“There’s been a lot of interest so far, but again it’s a matter of making sure that we get the right mix of tenants in here to really make this project as unique as possible.”

More Info

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On the web

For more information on the Flyway project, go to www.westbroadga.com.

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