UEP’s Justin Fern takes control of building next to Hanley
By Jim Hagerty
DOWNTOWN — With the dust and ashes are still settling following the Hanley Furniture building fire in June, the developer at the center of the situation has taken ownership of the building next door.
Urban Equity Properties (UEP) CEO Justin Fern told The Times Friday that an entity he owns, UEP Investments 2, LLC, now owns 307-309 S. Main St.
The building has five tenants, including Magpie restaurant, which has been shuttered by water damage since the June 25 blaze. It also houses [design] [build] by architects, ellAdele Photography, C. Tyson Photography and Solares Law Group. It has also been littered with code violations caused by the blaze former owner Sam Pirrello was told by the city he’d have to resolve.
While details of the transaction are not known, UEP attorney Jeff Orduno said Fern’s company took ownership of the building via a quitclaim deed.
The corner of Chestnut and South Main streets has been a point of conversation since the Hanley was demolished just ahead of the Fourth of July weekend. Urban Equity attempted to stop the wrecking ball while Pirrello was reportedly poised to sell.
“[307-309 S. Main] is rough at this point,” Orduno said. “We have already begun the stabilization process. Next comes rehabilitation.”
Orduno said he hopes the rehab project will include Magpie, something he said is good for downtown.
“We would like to see them serving meals in that building soon if [the restaurant owner] is willing,” he said.
Fern agreed. He is approaching the building the way he approached the Hanley project before the fire.
“At the end of the day, this is about saving downtown buildings,” he said. “And that is what we are going to do here.”
Fern had no comment about the now vacant lot where the Hanley building stood. The 116-year-old structure was tapped to be a five-story apartment complex with a ground-floor restaurant. Urban Equity Properties purchased the property in 2014 under the Hanley Lofts holding company. The company prolonged construction pending the outcome of the Amerock Embassy Suites project across the street.
Sam Pirrello could not be reached for comment.
Meanwhile, the investigation into a string of summer fires believed to be arson is continuing. Following the Hanley blaze, the three-story home of El Olivo Grocery at 301 7th St., El Navegante Bar, and an adjacent 7th Street building were total losses. Law enforcement officials have not commented on whether a suspect is being held in any of those fires. R.