An exchange of downtown Winston-Salem properties has positioned businessman and developer Michael Coe and his wife, Patricia, as the owner of the Pepper Building.
Coe said Wednesday he has bought the building at the corner of Fourth and Liberty streets from the Downtown Winston-Salem Foundation. He declined to provide a purchase price. The Forsyth County Register of Deeds’ web-site did not have a sale listing Wednesday.
Developers have tried for at least 13 years to redevelop the building, one of the cornerstones of the larger Civic Plaza project. The foundation is linked to the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership, which serves as an advocate for downtown.
Coe will develop the building in a joint venture with U.S. Development Co. of Columbia, S.C.
“It was a diamond in the rough that U.S. Development identified and we chose to jump on their effort to make the project go forward,” Coe said.
Coe owned Coe Plaza until The Mast General Store Inc. confirmed Jan. 7 that it had bought the four-story prop-erty on Trade, Fifth and Cherry streets. According to register of deeds data, Mast paid $1.92 million for the build-ing, since renamed as City Plaza.
Mast expects to open its store by summer 2015, while U.S. Development plans to renovate the top two floors of City Plaza to create 45 apartments with monthly rents starting in the $700 to $800 range.
Coe said he used money from the sale of the Coe Plaza to pay for the Pepper Building. “Without that sale, we wouldn’t have been able to afford this deal,” he said.
U.S. Development won in September 2010 financial assistance and a letter of support from the city of Winston-Salem for its plans to renovate the Pepper Building and Coe Plaza. The company estimated that the Pepper Build-ing would cost about $9 million to renovate, according to documents submitted to the city. The company would pay those costs using about $6 million in bond financing.
David Bryant, president of U.S. Development, said he expected the sale to be completed today, after which he would provide more details beyond the previously stated plans for apartments and a potential restaurant.
Jason Thiel, president of the downtown partnership, said that “until the closing is complete, it is premature to discuss details.”
Coe said he wants to bring the Pepper Building “back to its glamour with apartments that people can afford and retail on the first floor. We’re still talking about what makes sense in terms of a restaurant.”
He said he would be willing to offer the restaurant space to local entrepreneurs as he did with the local owner-ship of Sweet Potatoes on Trade Street.
“We would like it to be an attraction and leave its mark on downtown like Sweet Potatoes and Chelsee’s has,” Coe said. “I don’t know how long it will take the renovations to complete, but I do know that weekend after next, the lights will be on and work will begin.”
The city council said in September 2010 it would support U.S. Development’s request to the federal government for financing at a government-bond rate for part of the renovations to the Pepper Building. At that time, the company needed a bank to approve its loan request; the bond interest rate, though, is lower than a typical loan rate.
City Attorney Angela Carmon said in September 2010 that the city would not be responsible for paying back that loan if U.S. Development can't finish the building.