When construction crews began remodeling the former Hamilton County annex building across from the courthouse, they noticed an unusual boxed-in area along one of the walls on the second floor.
Peeling back the wooden frames in the former county office, workers discovered a 10-foot high brick fireplace built over an elk edged into the tile floor. A floor below, workers also uncovered a tiled swimming pool — one of the first such pools in Chattanooga.
"It's unbelievable in some of these old buildings what you see emerge," said Thomas Clark, the project manager for Lamp Post Properties, which is now renovating the Mayfield Annex and the former Cooper's Office Supply building a block away on Cherry Street. "You don't always know what you will find and that can be a challenge, but there is a unique opportunity for all these buildings."
The signature decorations in the Mayfield Annex date back to the building's original use as the downtown Elk's club, where more than a century ago members could swim in a basement swimming pool, smoke in a first floor cigar room, eat lunch in the second floor dining room or dance in the third floor ballroom.
Clark and his work crews are re-purposing the century-old buildings in downtown Chattanooga for new office, retail and restaurant use. Lamp Post Properties, the real estate arm of the venture capitalists backing nearly a dozen startup companies, bought the former Cooper Office Supply office in the 700 block of Cherry Street two years ago and acquired the Mayfield Annex at East Seventh and Walnut Streets last year to add to its portfolio in Chattanooga's Innovation District downtown.
"We're building a kind of Lamp Post campus," said Tiffanie Robinson, the president of Lamp Post Properties who first came to Lamp Post as an entrepreneur five years ago. "After getting these building and digging into them, we think we can be part of giving this whole area a face lift, which should benefit all of us. I think Cherry Street is really a diamond in the rough that has been overlooked but has a tremendous potential. The Mayfield Annex has a tremendous potential, especially since we have reactivated some of its original features."
The buildings are being leased and managed by a new company Lamp Post helped form, Second Story, to develop creative ways to use the structures for different types of business startup offices, restaurants and bars and retail outlets.
Robinson is heading Second Story to manage not only Lamp Post's properties but other commercial buildings around Chattanooga.
"Space is so essential to our lives, and every building has a story," she said. "Matching people with the right property and then delivering great care for both the space and the tenants are essential. We found that other building owners, sellers and developers were looking for these services, which opened the door to start this business."
Within the next year, Lamp Post hopes to reactivate the Mayfield Annex and adjacent original home of Title Guaranty & Trust Co. into office, restaurant and retail space. The Mayfield Annex overlooks the county courthouse across the street and offers rooftop patio space atop the 3-story building.
Next year, the former Cooper's Office Supply downtown location will reopen a block away as the CO-OP building to offer open-office space for four tenants on the upper two floors above a restaurant or bar expected to locate on the first level.
The Cooper Office Supply Co. shut down in 2010 after operating for more than 75 years. Robinson said after buying the property two years ago the new owners spent a year figuring out a plan for an open the best use for the Cherry Street site.
"You can find small co-working space for small one- or two-person business, but you can't find that same flexible, co-working space for five- to eight-person company," she said. "We are doing one- to two-year leases with shared amenities to offer some new and creative solutions for businesses."
The construction work is being done by GenTech Construction Co., and the design is by PV Design Inc., which owns the building adjacent to the CO-OP building on Cherry Street.
The CO-OP building will back up to an alleyway that runs between the newly renovated CO-OP space and the 10-story apartment and retail complex the Simpson Group is building on the 700 block of Market Street. The $28 million complex will include 126 apartments above a parking garage and a floor or retail and restaurant space.
The CO-OP building is also near the 20,000-square-foot building at Cherry and Seventh that once served as the corporate headquarters for the Krystal fast-food restaurant chain. Fidelity Trust Trust refurbished the three-story building for a trio of technology companies in a $2.7 million project two years ago.
The CO-OP building features 18-foot high ceilings and is being equipped for an open office layout with small "phone booth" meeting areas for one-on-one private meetings.
"You just don't see a lot of retail space like what this could be in Chattanooga," Robinson said. "We'll be opening up the front windows that have been blocked up for years."
Lamp Post is investing nearly $5 million in the two downtown buildings it will bring on the market within the next year along Cherry Street and Seventh Street. Robinson said the owners are looking to enhance downtown, serve the growing startup community in the Innovation District and realize long-term gains.
"We invest in properties for the purpose of building up downtown and helping provide unique space for the startups and other businesses moving into the Innovation District," Robinson said. "We're in it for the long term."
Contact Dave Flessner at email@example.com or at 423-757-6340.
- Started: Fall of 2016
- Business: Commercial real estate sales and leasing, property management and tenant communication.
- Owner: Lamp Post Properties
- Managed buildings: Fleetwood Building, The Tomorrow Building, The Edge, Lyerly Medical Pavilion II, and renovating the CO-OP and Mayfield Building, among other buidings totaling nearly 1 million square feet.
- Staff: Eight employees
- CEO: Tiffanie Robinson
Lamp Post has an interest in or owns outright five downtown buildings and holds about 150,000 square feet of space:
- Lovemans Building, Market and Eighth streets
- Cornerstone Building, 835 Georgia Ave.
- Tomorrow Building, Georgia Avenue and Patten Parkway
- CO-OP buildings, 715 and 717 Cherry St.
- Mayfield Annex, Walnut and Seventh streets
Source: Lamp Post