Adan Fons, a Miami architect who purchased J.R. Priester’s Clothiers building on Main Street last year, last month submitted an offer to buy the former Rosewood Florist building at 912 Main Street for $20,000.
Fons’ proposal calls for work on the building that would be in addition to improvements the town completed for mixed-use development. His plans call for leasing the bottom floor for retail use and leasing the top floor as two loft-style apartments. His projected investment cost is $200,000, with completion in 30 months.
Fons didn’t attend the meeting but his proposal was presented by Crystal Keener, director of the Downtown North Wilkesboro Partnership.
On the board’s agenda for its Sept. 8 meeting is Fons’ request for a special use permit that would let him use the ground floor of his 903 Main Street property for residential purposes.
The other proposal presented Thursday night was from Peiman Yaraei, a restaurateur, chef and investor who has lived in Wilkes County for 13 years and is married to Dr. Julia Pinkerton.
Yaraei, who attended the work session Thursday, asked that both the 910 and 912 Main Street properties be donated to him in return for him spending over $326,000 on converting the 910 building from its current shell condition to make it usable for his plans. He said he also planned to construct an expansive, multi-level event venue that would be developed in four phases.
Yaraei said he planned to remove walls between the two buildings to transform them into one cohesive, functional space. He shared plans for a first-floor deli/bakery/restaurant with a wood-fired brick oven, wedding and meeting space on the second floor and glass-enclosed, rooftop lounge area which could also be used for parties or gatherings.
“I am totally devoted to this project,” Yaraei told the commissioners. “I want to really give back to this community. I want to serve. I am zealous about this place, these buildings, because I love it so much and am totally grateful to live here. I want to build something that will bring hundreds of people here and more tourists, plus help the businesses that are around me bloom. It’s going to be extraordinary. I promise you that.”
During their discussion of the proposals, the commissioners agreed that they didn’t know if town-owned properties could be given rather than sold to a private individual.
Commissioner Bert Hall recommended that the board take more time to consider the two proposals and legalities related to deeding the properties. A motion to table discussion of both proposals until September was unanimously approved to allow more time for consideration.
According to guidelines in the town’s request for proposals for the 910 and 912 properties, all proposals must include intended uses, a financial and business plan with a timeframe for completion and operation, sketches of any exterior or interior changes or upgrades (including signage) and an offer to obtain the property from the town.
Proposals must meet all agreed timeframes and uses of the properties or ownership reverts back to the town.
Keener said state statutes define laws regarding the acquisition of town-owned properties by outside parties.
“These historic buildings belong to the taxpayers of North Wilkesboro,” said Keener in an interview.
“So that’s why we want to make sure they will be used properly and everyone involved is protected in the process. We can’t just give the building away and then the person who owns it go back on their word or not complete the project in the time allowed. There are numerous convents and claw-back measures in place which states if the terms of the agreement are not met, the town reclaims the properties and the owners forfeit all the money they’ve put into them.”
The North Wilkesboro board approved the purchase of both blighted, vacant buildings to spur investment in the downtown area in December 2015.
The town stabilized and completed basic structural renovations, including repairing the roofs.
Keener said both were improved to point of being shell buildings and aren’t equipped with plumbing, HVAC or electrical wiring. New owners would be responsible for bringing them up to code.
Earlier proposals for use of the buildings were either dropped or rejected by the board.