January 14, 2012

Retail Space ~ 8000 Square Feet with Basement and Mezzanine ~ at the Empire Hotel, Salisbury NC.

The Empire Hotel has been the most talked about building in downtown Salisbury, North Carolina. City Councils have dreamed of its resurrection.  Preservationists have drooled over its possibilities.  Salisbury’s recent Downtown Master Plan makes redevelopment of the Empire Hotel a major goal.

On April 1, 1870 General Robert E. Lee traveled by carriage from the Salisbury Railway Depot to the Empire Hotel for breakfast.  The hotel was a gathering place during the Civil War, and according to local lore, the hotel was occupied by federal officers following the Civil War.  The Governors of North Carolina and Pennsylvania held a reunion dinner for Salisbury Confederate Prison POW’s at this hotel in 1910. The Empire Hotel continues to stand guard like a sentinel over the second block of South Main Street in downtown Salisbury, directly across from City Hall. 

The landmark is actually a combination of three buildings stretching nearly the entire length of the 200 block of S. Main Street. The oldest section was the grand Boyden House Hotel, completed in 1859.  After being remodeled in the early 1900’s by Frank P. Milburn, who designed the famous Salisbury Depot, it was known as the Central Hotel.  It was later renamed The Empire HotelThe building is an example of Beaux-Arts commercial architecture, a French term meaning “fine arts”. The façade designed by Frank Milburn was added in 1907, and the name was changed to the Central Hotel. The hotel closed in 1963 after 104 years of serving the interests of Salisbury. From its antebellum beginnings through the high life of the 1890s and the jazz of the roaring 1920s, the hotel was a centerpiece of a gracious lifestyle. There was once a domed ballroom on the top floor.  The grand portico, the porch leading to the hotel entrance and extended as a roofed colonnade over much of the front walkways, and its ornate support columns are long gone. Local lore insists there was a tunnel from the hotel to the Meroney Theatre across the street with famous actors such as Charlie Chaplin traversing its span without going outside through inclement weather and crowds.  It closed its doors as a hotel in 1963 after 104 years in business.  For several recent decades, Mary E. Ragsdale, owned the Empire Hotel and controlled its destiny until she was in her late 90s. Ragsdale gave Downtown Salisbury Inc. the first chance to purchase the building when she was finally ready to let go of the reins. Wallace Realty has been the longtime local manager for the property. 

The building is secure and structurally sound. Ragsdale went to considerable expense to install a rubberized roof over the old hotel to curtail any water damage. In 1984, she used low-interest loans and grant money to remove aluminum storefronts and restore much of the hotel’s handsome brick facade.

Space Available

One of Salisbury’s major selling points to out-of-town visitors is its historic ambiance. The Empire Hotel's beaux-arts architectural style, red-and-tan brick, ornate architectural motifs, and handsome windows characterize the landmark’s façade. One cannot help be impressed upon by its sheer size. It takes up at least half the 200 block of South Main Street. The words “Empire Hotel” are still painted in green at the top center of the building. Recently, a NASCAR filmed a commercial at the Empire Hotel. The glorious past of the Empire made the hotel the perfect location for this video about a ghost-hunter investigating NASCAR’s past.

The Empire Hotel as it looked in the 1980s
Currently, the Empire Hotel houses retail businesses. Its location at 212 and 214 South Main Street, Salisbury NC is not to be beat for retail visibility and traffic.  Wise retailers and restaurateurs will be wise to check out the available spaces at this prime, visible location across from City Hall, the Meroney Theatre, art galleries, and wine shops. The space at 212 S Main Street, Empire Hotel, offers s 2,800-3,600 square feet of sales floor with 18’ ceilings and 4,400-5,200 square feet of storage on the first floor. The available space includes a large finished basement, 7,000+ square feet. A fantastic and 4,000+ square foot mezzanine is a special feature of the space and is included. The space will have new HVAC, electrical, restored lighting.  Plentiful street parking is right in front of the space.

Formerly Ralph Baker Shoes for over twenty years, the spaces recent improvements removed dropped ceilings to reveal original lighting fixtures.  Monthly rent is $3,500 for the 8,000 square-foot space, and Greg Rapp is the contact for more information at (704) 213-6846, gregrapp@wallacerealty.com.
Current retail neighbors in the Empire are Charles White Barber, Penny Pinchers, and a small church (Resurrection Life).

Additional space is available at 224 S. Main Street, also in The Empire Hotel, formerly the Lasting Impressions Bridal Shop, and comprises 3500 sq ft at $1,500/month.

In 2000, Downtown Salisbury Inc. looked into the cost of renovating The Empire Hotel as a hotel for the City.  The findings were that it would cost $9 million, however the potential hotel owner could expect to recoup $1.3 million per year.  There are many advantages to the hotel’s redevelopment, the primary being its superb location next to two strong residential historic neighborhoods (the West Square and Brooklyn South Square Historic Districts) and across the street from an active theater (the Meroney). 

To see the fabulous potential for retail or restaurant space in the prime location at the historic Empire Hotel in Downtown Salisbury, North Carolina, call Greg Rapp at (704) 213-6846, gregrapp@wallacerealty.com.

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