Steel frame, big plan undergird old shell

Steel frame, big plan undergird old shell

October 9th, 2010 by Ellis Smith in Business Around the Region

Developer Jay Sliger said work is under way on a renovation of the old Levin Brothers store at 100 E. Main St., part of the Market and Main Street Historic District.

"Our current project is to clean up all the debris in the basement, put in gravel fill dirt and pour a first-floor slab," he said of the $800,000 restoration, which is slated to take a year.

Staff Photo by Laura-Chase McGehee/Chattanooga Times Free Press/ Sep 28, 2010 - A three-story Victorian commercial structure located at 100 East Main Street, The Levin Brothers building was erected as a hotel and was later used as a retail clothing business, serving those who lived and worked around the railroads on the Southside. Unstable, due to deterioration and roof loss, the building is awaiting restoration. Joe Sliger will start restoration, slowly at first, because he doesn't currently have a tenant. He plans to turn the building into something suitable for a restaurant and/or office space, with a courtyard and reinforced walls.

Staff Photo by Laura-Chase McGehee/Chattanooga Times Free Press/...

Sliger also restored the Terminal Brewhouse building, which he owns, and said he will use similar techniques to rehabilitate his latest project.

While the Levin Brothers building is an empty shell, Sliger has stabilized it using steel beams that will support the roof, walls and floors of what he hopes will be a restaurant with office space on the second floor.

"The basic principle is, there is a freestanding self-supporting steel frame building inside the wall, the old brick walls don't hold anything up," he said.

The rejuvenated building will feature the same facade, but structurally it will be much different when complete, he said.

The current street-facing wall will enclose a courtyard, with the building's actual wall set back 30 feet. This arrangement will allow a restaurant to offer outdoor seating, he said.

The new Levin Brothers building will remain at the same height, but only two of the original three floors will be part of the new structure, Sliger said, with rooftop dining or an office space on top depending on funding and other factors.

Sarah Morgan, program officer for the Lyndhurst Foundation, said she is "thrilled" to see work in progess at one of "Main Street's signature locations."

"The Levin Brothers building is a historic gem for the Southside district - but also for the city," she said.

Ann Gray, executive director of the Cornerstones historic preservation group, called the building "an important property that anchors the corner and the historic district itself."

The three-story building is one of the largest in the district, she said, though it has "had difficulty surviving the passage of time."

"Maybe its time has come to join the rest of the redevelopment in the area," Gray said.

Sliger doesn't have an occupant lined up, but he's decided to proceed with construction anyway, he said. Not having a tenant means he can restore the building more slowly, which saves money to the tune of about $40,000.

"I'm not desperate for a tenant, but it'd be great to have one," he said.