Zimmerman Closes on Downtown’s Old Greensborough Gateway Center
Commercial property development company AZ Development announced this week it has closed on the Old Greensborough Gateway Center at South Elm Street and Gate City Boulevard. The 106,000 square foot property will be retooled into upscale office space, with great care taken to preserve the century-old building’s character, according to AZ Development’s Andy Zimmerman.
“This is such a unique property with a great industrial vibe,” Zimmerman said. “It has soaring ceilings with exposed beams on the upper floor. The huge windows are original and can be restored, the plank floors are original and can be restored. And the story of the building is quite unique, as well.”
Built in 1919 and known as the Blue Bell factory, the building housed the Hudson Overall Company which flourished for many years. In 1943, the company acquired Wrangler Jeans and continued on a steady growth trajectory until it merged with VF corporation in 1986. The building was acquired by 620 Corporation and since the late 1980s has operated at the Old Greensborough Gateway Center, leasing space to some 75 small businesses and individuals. 620 Corporation’s majority owner Betty Cone agreed to sell the property to AZ Development on a handshake agreement.
“I called Betty some time ago and told her if she ever wanted to sell the property I was interested,” Zimmerman said. “Fortunately I finally got a call. And you know, she never even put the property on the market. We just did a kind of old-fashioned handshake deal. It’s something you just don’t see anymore and I am so proud to have this opportunity.”
In a 2013 article, the Greensboro News & Record called Cone Greensboro’s “downtown diva.” She has for decades been a highly visible and enthusiastic supporter of the city’s downtown; her Grassroots Productions responsible for the Festival of Lights and the summer Fun Fourth Festival. ArtsGeensboro annually awards a medal in her name to a practicing artist.
“I am thrilled with the renaissance that has been taking place downtown over the last several years,” Cone said. “Andy has been a key figure in that rebirth. I believe he is just the person to turn the Gateway Center into an anchor for the south end of downtown.”
In just a few years, AZ Development has transformed the forgotten West Lewis Street corridor into a bustling area of business and commerce that includes The Forge maker space, Gibbs Brewery, HQ Greensboro, Boxcar Bar + Arcade, Greensboro Distilling Company and soon-to-open office/retail space that fronts Elm Street. The company’s vision for the converted Gateway Center, Zimmerman said, is inspiring office and entrepreneurial space whose character and mission is in keeping with the spirit of the neighborhood.
“This will be a special property,” said Tyler Richardson of Range Properties which brokered the deal between Cone and Zimmerman and will manage the facility when completed. “Of course, it has already played an important role in Greensboro’s history both in textiles and later in fostering small businesses and start-ups. Andy and his team will be true to the aesthetic character and rich history of the property, in much the same way he’s created with his HQ office on Lewis Street. We’re proud to be leasing and managing this incredible asset and meeting the needs of tenants who we expect to thrive in this attractive office space amid all of downtown’s amenities.”