By Jim Hagerty
DOWNTOWN — Crews were on site at the corner of Chestnut and South Main streets Tuesday, a week after a downtown developer took control of the property next to the former Hanley furniture building, which was demolished just ahead of the Fourth of July.
The adjacent building at 307-309 S. Main St. was immediately in limbo following the June 25 fire that preceded the Hanley’s demolition. Today, it is in the early stages of repair.
The biggest question after the fire centered on the partied wall that separated the two structures, most notably who would pay to stabilize it so the ground-floor restaurant at 307 S. Main St., and the four other tenants, could re-open. Hanley Lofts, LLC, a company controlled by Urban Equity Properties CEO Justin Fern, was responsible for a portion of the wall. The rest of the repair was to be covered by Sam Pirrello who, until Oct. 13, owned 307 S. Main St.
As insurance companies made their adjustments, Pirrello was hit with sizable code violations in addition to what costs he was facing to repair the wall. Instead of remedying the building, Pirrello signed the property over to another LLC owned by Fern via a quitclaim deed.
A lawsuit filed by the owner of Magpie restaurant, Stephanie Caltagerone, claims Pirrello violated terms of a lease he had with the eatery owner, and that she had a right of first refusal in the event he decided to sell the building. But the building did not exchange hands by way of a sale.
A quitclaim deed is a legal instrument that allows the owner of a property to transfer ownership to another party. The accepting party, the grantee, becomes entitled to the same interest the grantor possessed when the property was transferred. In other words, Pirrello signed the building, along with the associated code violations, over to Fern’s company. No money exchanged hands.
As of Tuesday, Oct. 31, heavy equipment is on site, coinciding with UEP attorney Jeff Orduno’s statement to The Times last week that the process of stabilizing the building is underway.
Besides Magpie, 307-09 S. Main was the home to [design] [build] by architects, ellAdele Photography, C. Tyson Photography and Solares Law Group. Orduno said the goal is to continue leasing to those tenants.
What UEP has in store for the space where Hanley stood isn’t known. There’s the cost of the demolition the city says was more than $500,000 to contend with, something both parties will iron out as the developer’s plans unfold. Fern was to turn the Hanley into a five-story apartment complex with a ground-floor restaurant, a project he hoped to start this year, when it caught fire June 25 as a room full of patrons dined inside Magpie. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Hanley was the first of three vacant downtown buildings lost to fire this June. Arson is expected in all three blazes, and several potential suspects have been interviewed. Criminal charges have not been filed in the case.
Sam Pirrello could not be reached for comment. R.