Workers have begun demolition of three buildings at the southeast corner of Wilmington and Martin streets downtown to prepare the site for what could one day become a 19-story building.
The buildings, in the 300 block of South Wilmington Street, were once home to longtime downtown businesses Reliable Jewelry & Loan and Isaac’s Men’s Store. They are now part of a .62-acre site owned by Highwoods Properties, which plans to someday boost its downtown inventory by building a high-rise office project there.
The Raleigh-based company, the Triangle’s largest landlord, plans to invest between $7 million and $8 million to buy the land and prepare it for a future building, said Brendan Maiorana, Highwoods’ vice president of finance and investor relations.
“We’re just getting the site what we like to call ‘pad ready,’ ” Maiorana said.
Highwoods has no immediate plans to build and will leave the land vacant or pave it for use as a surface parking lot until it is ready, he said.
When it finds a customer willing to be the building’s anchor tenant, Highwoods will begin to build what is currently slated to be in the neighborhood of 19 stories and 300,000 square feet, he said.
The area is zoned for “downtown mixed-use” and will allow for a building up to 40 stories tall, according to city records.
The buildings are the last of the century-old structures that dominated the block until the past decade. They were purchased from developer Gregg Sandreuter’s Beacon Partners, which developed the Edison Lofts project that shares the south side of the block along East Davie Street.
Sandreuter had previously planned an office building on the site to accompany his Edison mixed-use project.
Reliable Jewelry & Loan owner Phillip Horwitz said he moved his business into Sandreuter’s Edison Lofts building after he swapped his building at 307 S. Wilmington St., for a new 5,000-square-foot space at 345 S. Wilmington St.
Horwitz, who owns Reliable with his son Alan, said the business moved into the 1920s-era building in 1976 and has been downtown since about 1949.
Horwitz said he isn’t sentimental about the building’s demise.
“The building was in bad shape,” he said. “I got a new building, and I’m happy.”
Issac’s Men’s Store owner Shalom Rokach said he had been reflecting on his old store at 309 S. Wilmington St. after hearing it was being demolished.
Rokach came to the United States from Israel in 1980 and rented the space where he operated Isaac’s from 1985 until November of last year, when he relocated to 4011 Capital Blvd.
He said he is doing well in the new location and has more parking for customers, but he’s sorry to hear it is coming down.
“I feel sad about it,” he said. “It’s memories, and I spent a lot of time there.”
Chris Cioffi: 919-829-4802, @ReporterCioffi