Business

New owners of Raleigh’s historic Montfort Hall want to turn it into a ‘boutique inn’

Montfort Hall at 309 S. Boylan Avenue in Raleigh. New owners want to turn the historic mansion into a boutique inn.
Montfort Hall at 309 S. Boylan Avenue in Raleigh. New owners want to turn the historic mansion into a boutique inn. ssharpe@newsobserver.com

UPDATE: The article has been updated to list all of the members of the new ownership group of Montfort Hall and to clarify the creators of the ‘Temple Run’ game.

RALEIGH — The new owners of Montfort Hall, a pre-Civil-War-era mansion in the Boylan Heights neighborhood, have ambitious plans to turn the historic home into a boutique inn and event space.

But to accomplish their goals the group will need to rezone the 1-acre property, something that will require both the neighborhood and the city’s blessing.

The new owners — the husband and wife team of Jeff and Sarah Shepherd as well as Jeff’s brother, Keith and his wife Natalia Luckyanova — purchased the historic home for $1.1 million in June, according to Wake County records.

The group presented a plan, which was mostly soft on details, to a group of about two dozen neighbors on Monday night, sketching out the possibility of creating a bed-and-breakfast-like inn with up to 10 rooms and potential space to host events such as small weddings and business meetings.

Both Jeff and Sarah Shepherd have lived in the Boylan Heights neighborhood for years. Keith Shepherd and Luckyanova, creators of the “Temple Run” phone game and the main source of money for the renovation, also live in Raleigh. The three formed a limited liability company called MH Boylan LLC to make the purchase.

The two-story home, built for William Montfort Boylan in 1858, has more than 6,000 square feet of heated space and was last remodeled in 1960, according to Wake County records. Since the 1970s, the home has transformed from a church back into a residence, Sarah Shepherd said, but it hasn’t had any work done to it in likely a decade.

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A room inside Montfort Hall. The home has extensive water damage. Courtesy of MH Boylan LLC

It will need expensive repairs, including plaster work, a new roof and repairs to water damage. The group is working with architect David Maurer and the law firm Longleaf Law Partners.

Sarah Shepherd said her admiration for the property has grown over the years, especially as she walks by it every day to her job at Citrix in the nearby Warehouse District downtown. The home is currently obscured by a fence and trees.

“I got to watch from the front row as it deteriorated and as it was not being taken care of,” she said in an interview with The News & Observer.

The home’s quickly fading appearance was an opportunity to restore something the group considers the symbol of the neighborhood.

“The house was originally intended as an entertainment space — it wasn’t meant to be a single-family home, it was supposed to be opened to the community,” Jeff Shepherd said in an interview with The N&O. “What inspired us was being able to open up to the community.”

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Jeff and Sarah Shepherd standing in front of Montford Hall. Courtesy of MH Boylan LLC

Rezoning

The Montfort Hall group spent most of Monday’s night meeting fielding questions from neighbors about rezoning, potential loud noises from outdoor events and parking issues. Most people there seemed at least somewhat supportive that the home is getting attention after years of neglect.

The property is currently in a single-family residential zone, called R-10, but the group is asking to rezone it to a light-industrial code called IX-3-CU.

Michael Birch, of Longleaf Law Partners, said this was because R-10 didn’t allow for an inn with more than five rooms, and to allow the property to use off-site parking. Along with off-site parking, the group thinks it could fit 20 parking spaces on the property itself as well.

Under Raleigh’s zoning laws, Birch said, the property would need to have the same zoning as the off-site parking it wants to use, which in this case would be local businesses that are currently zoned for IX-3-CU.

Talk of a light-industrial zone coming into the neighborhood caused concern from the neighbors present, especially about what could happen if the group ever sold the inn to new owners. But the Shepherds said that they would be willing to layer on several conditions to the rezoning, so that it would only allow it to be used as an inn.

“The conditions would act as the law on the property, which would be in place regardless of who owns the property or who runs the business,” Birch said.

The group is also prohibited from making a lot of changes because of the building’s designation as a historic home and a landmark. Most changes to the house have to be approved by the Raleigh Historic Design Commission, Preservation North Carolina and even the National Park Service because of some of the tax credits it is eligible to receive.

The new owners also wouldn’t commit to what sort of events they would or wouldn’t host — beyond saying there wouldn’t be “large weddings every weekend.”

“Nothing is finalized,” Sarah Shepherd said in the interview. “We want (the neighbors’) input, and we want to put a face to our name. We are not some big development company that does this all the time. We live in the neighborhood.”

Timeline

The Montfort Hall group said they will now submit a rezoning request to the city and that if all goes smoothly, they could begin accepting guests in January of 2020. But that is not a guarantee, as the group will now have to go through several levels of local government as well as construction.

After submitted the rezoning request, the group will have to face multiple Citizens Advisory Councils, the Planning Commission and eventually the City Council for a final ruling on rezoning the property.

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