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Pre-Civil War mansion near downtown Raleigh one step closer to becoming boutique inn

The exterior of the historic Montfort Hall in Boylan Heights.
The exterior of the historic Montfort Hall in Boylan Heights. Montfort Hall LLC.

The historic Montfort Hall mansion has cleared a critical hurdle toward becoming a boutique inn near downtown Raleigh.

Raleigh leaders agreed to rezone the 1-acre property Tuesday night, paving the way for the pre-Civil War home in Boylan Heights to become a 10-room boutique inn with space for a bar and gatherings like weddings and receptions.

The property, at 308 S. Boylan Ave., was purchased by wife and husband pair Sarah and Jeff Shepherd — who also live in the neighborhood next to downtown and will be the hall’s “day-to-day” operators — as well as Jeff’s brother, Keith, and his wife, Natalia Luckyanova.

“We’re very excited,” Jeff Shepherd said. “This is our first undertaking of this kind, and it’s a learning experience. But we are both very excited.”

They were originally drawn to Boylan Heights for its proximity to downtown while still maintaining its neighborhood charm and “feeling of solitude,” he said.

Walking past the Italianate-style mansion every day, they said they felt drawn to the home and wanted to see its potential shine through.

“Really the goal of this is to set this property up to be self-sustaining so it doesn’t fall back into disrepair,” Jeff Shepherd said. “Which we believe we have the ability to do so.”

A bar wasn’t included in the original vision for the home, but neighbors felt it was something missing and asked for it to be included in the project, he said.

Keith Shepherd and Luckyanova, who created the “Temple Run” mobile game, are the main backers of the renovation. Renovations to the hall have already begun with most of the attention on the home’s roof. But there’s also significant water damage and other repairs that have to be made.

The home, built in 1858, is a local landmark and within a historic neighborhood, meaning repairs need approval from the Raleigh Historic Development Commission to make sure they are historically accurate.

“The site is a historic landmark that will have life breathed back into it, it’s important to the history of the neighborhood and downtown, [and] the applicant has led a tremendous effort to engage the community and the area throughout the process and the project has tremendous support,” city staff wrote in the rezoning documents. “While some residents do have concerns about the intensity of uses that will be permitted on the space and parking for large events, this rezoning is in the interest and the greater good of the community.”

The only person who spoke against the rezoning during Tuesday’s public hearing was Joseph Rana. He lives near the project and is mostly worried about the parking and large events, but said he wasn’t totally against the boutique inn.

Several limitations were placed on the property during the rezoning process, including:

Limiting the number of hotel rooms to 10.

Only allowing weddings, receptions, conferences, meetings and other similar gatherings.

Only allowing four events with more than 150 guests per year.

Screening off-street parking and requiring off-site parking for events with more than 100 guests.

Limiting hours of operation of the bar and restaurant, though the times aren’t listed.

The historic home is looking “for a new beginning,” said City Council member Kay Crowder, adding her grandmother lived in the neighborhood and enjoyed attending the hall when it was a church.

“It will be a really good addition to the area, and it has a lot of neighbors who are in support,” she said.

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Anna Johnson covers Raleigh and Wake County for the News & Observer. She has covered city government, crime and business for North Carolina newspapers since 2012. Reach her at 919-829-4807 or ajohnson@newsobserver.com.

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