DGI, RLF Communications moving to latest Zimmerman redevelopment project in Downtown Greensboro
In the latest effort to bring change to Downtown Greensboro, local developer Andy Zimmerman has taken an unused old building, refurbished it and created a new workplace for some of Greensboro’s business leaders. The newly redone property started with unveiling events this past weekend and will host four different businesses within it.
“The place was originally built in 1892 and we bought it in August of last year,” Zimmerman said. He partnered with his cousin David Zimmerman on this project. Previously the building had been owned by Rhynes Antiques, LLC and had fallen into disuse.
“This was a learning experience for us when it was all said and done,” Zimmerman said with a laugh when asked about the work that went into the transformation. “There was a lot of pain and suffering but there’s nothing much like it now in Greensboro.”
While the building got its start as a furniture store before the turn of the previous century, it had changed hands numerous times and housed a number of different businesses over the years. Zimmerman said the wear and tear found in the building wasn’t as bad as one could expect but it was still well over 100 years old and in need of serious updating.
“The latest use of the building before we got it was storing antiques,” he continued. “The freight elevator in one corner of the building was completely out of service. Basically, the place had been here untouched for 20-25 years except for some minor repairs.”
While there is the old adage that “they don’t make them like they used to” and the building had good bones to work with, there was still a laundry list of things to do.
“All of the joists in the building had to either be replaced or sistered (reinforced by adding boards or steel to the original) to make it sound,” Zimmerman said. “And while we wanted to keep as much of the flooring as we could, most of it had to go.”
The project investment, including the purchase and renovation work, came to just over $2 million altogether, he explained.
“We were able to apply for and receive historical property tax credits,” Zimmerman said, “but that also meant that historical preservation standards had to be met. Without that, (the project) couldn’t have been done – the costs would have just exceeded any reasonable return on the investment.”
The construction work inside the building was done by DH Griffin Construction, a local company that has a lot of experience in renovation projects in downtown Greensboro.
Zimmerman himself has quite a bit of experience in the Downtown Greensboro regeneration movement. Working particularly in the South End of the downtown area, he has brought several properties along Lewis Street back into use and given homes to some very modern businesses, including Gibbs Hundred Brewing, The Forge, HQ Greensboro and the Greensboro Distilling Co.
“Everyone has made a leap of faith coming to the South End with their businesses,” he said. “I was attracted to the bones of this building, but we’re amazed at the faith our tenants have put on the resurgence of the south Downtown area.”
One of those tenants, Downtown Greensboro, Inc. (DGI), is very much tied into that resurgence effort, not just in the South End, but also throughout the inner part of the city. DGI is a non-profit organization working to further economic development in the central portion of Greensboro. The group also does fundraising, manages entertainment events in the downtown area and oversees the Municipal Services District tax. Founded in 1997, the organization is active in business recruitment and development, collects and provides demographic data, oversees public safety and parking downtown and actively works to promote and advertise Greensboro, among other activities.
DGI will share the first floor of the building with Bloom, a floral arrangement and cut flowers shop owned by Karen Willette, a local restaurateur who also owns and operates W on Elm, another popular spot in Downtown Greensboro. The location may also offer fresh, local produce to customers based on seasonal availability, Zimmerman said. He said the new business was an outgrowth from the success W on Elm has seen from their event catering business (which often uses a lot of specialty floral arrangements) as well as the restaurant itself.
The second and third floors of the building will be used by two separate business service companies. One floor will host RLF Communications, a local strategic communications company that pairs with clients to develop marketing, branding and public relations work.
The other floor will be home to Emisare, a relationship branding firm that helps develop identities and advertising for products and companies through public relations and media work. The two companies will also share a rooftop deck area for meetings.
The mixed clientele of the building will certainly suit Zimmerman’s other properties in the area. Right next door is Gibbs Hundred Brewing Co., a local brewery and pub housed in another Zimmerman property, alongside The Forge, a shared makerspace that offers members workshop areas and equipment for making things both high and low tech, whether they be artistic works or engineering marvels. Other nearby Zimmerman property developments include the Boxcar Barcade, which will be opening this December.
“I think we’ve got a great mix going in down here,” Zimmerman said, speaking to the variety. He agreed that the variety of uses would offer the best sustainability to the area’s future growth. “It’s been kind of planned that way as we’ve come along.”