Wright Dunbar real estate deals spark hope for new growth

The Wright Dunbar area is home to about 25 businesses, but some shop owners and neighbors say the district sorely needs a coffee shop, more dining options, new housing and other things to bring visitors and dollars to the area.

Two recent real estate sales are raising hopes that the West Third Street business corridor someday soon could offer more amenities and destinations that increase foot traffic and contribute to a new wave of investment in the district.

“We’re moving forward, and we’re excited about the possibilities,” said Erica Hubler, Wright Dunbar Inc.’s director of real estate. “I think we’re moving in the right direction, for sure.”

PHOTOS: Wright Dunbar development

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Last month, Wright Dunbar Inc. sold properties at 800 W. Third St. and 1000 W. Third St. to separate buyers.

The old Allaman building at 1000 W. Third St. was once used as doctor’s offices, apartments and retail space, but it has been vacant for a long time.

A company called Urbannovation Development Group LLC purchased the three-story building for $120,000, according to Montgomery County Auditor real estate records.

The company belongs to an out-of-state developer who has investments in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Toronto, Canada.

The buyer has shared plans to renovate the upper levels into about four market-rate condos and wants to attract new retail uses to the ground floor, such as a coffee shop, cafe or food establishment, Hubler said.

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The building, constructed by Dr. Allaman in 1914, has a carriage house at the rear, which has drawn interest for use as an art gallery, Hubler said.

The developer also expressed interest in a second phase of the project to construct a “duplicate” building on vacant land adjacent to the Allaman building, Hubler said.

“I think it will have a huge impact,” Hubler said.

The Main Street Program, which later became Wright Dunbar Inc., acquired the Allaman property in 2002.

In the mid- to late-2000s, Wright Dunbar Inc. gutted and renovated the building, adding new windows, an elevator and rear stairwell.

The property's redevelopment could attract more young professionals to the Wright Dunbar district, said Lake Gibson, a real estate agent with HER Realtors in Wright Dunbar who sold the building and has assisted the buyer.

The buyer’s plans are still a bit up in the air right now, but likely it will be a mixed-use project that is in line with the vision of Wright Dunbar as a vibrant, dense district, Gibson said.

“Working with the buyer, he just fell in love with the area over here,” Gibson said. “I’m sure he’s looking forward to building long-lasting relationships, especially with Wright Dunbar.”

Wright Dunbar has many attractive features, including being quaint, beautiful, historic and close to downtown, Gibson said.

But the district could use coffee shops, sandwich shops, fitness options and other establishments that complement its existing businesses, she said.

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Late last month, a group called San Marco Dayton LLC spent $100,000 to buy the old Central Motor sales building at 800 W. Third St., as well as some surrounding property.

Built in 1927, the 75,000-square-foot building takes up an entire block. It once was used as a car dealership and still has a ramp in the center for vehicles to drive from the showroom up to a service area on the second level. The building has deteriorated over the years and needs considerable work.

San Marco Dayton was incorporated by Lumpkin & Lumpkin Group LLC, which was incorporated by John Lumpkin Jr.

Lumpkin is vice president of wealth management and a financial advisor with Morgan Stanley, and he has served on the West Dayton Development Fund board. Lumpkin did not immediately return requests for comment.

Hubler said she signed a nondisclosure agreement about the real estate purchase and could not comment on the buyer’s plans. But she said she’s “very excited” about the project.

“I think everyone will be,” she said.

Wright Dunbar had a busy 2019.

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Last year, Wright Dunbar secured a long-term lease with ZIKS Family Pharmacy, as it expands and creates as many as 250 new home health care jobs.

A new salon, Urban Chic, opened in the district, and the Entrepreneurs Marketplace signed a three-year lease late last year.

The marketplace is a permanent, pop-up shop that will have about seven retail vendors at 13 N. Williams St., offering fashion, food and more. Over the weekend, vendors at the marketplace sold skin care and beauty products, savory sweets, candles, egg rolls and other goods.

Hubler said nearly all of the district’s leasable space is leased, except for a 2,500-square-foot space recently vacated by Pelican Technologies.

Wright Dunbar Inc. has 18 moderate-income apartments, and since 2016, no unit has been vacant for more than 30 days, Hubler said.

The Chase bank building at 1158 W. Third St. has a new owner who wants to reactivate the second floor of the building, which has been unused for eight to nine decades, she said.

Wright Dunbar Inc.’s only building left for sale is the Midget Theater at 1021 W. Third St. The property was a theater from 1912 to 1938, and was one of the first theaters to cater to the black community.

But it hasn’t been entirely good news for the area. The owner of Texas Beef & Cattle says he may close his business if his sales nosedive — as he expects — after the Third Street Bridge closure for a replacement project that will take nearly two years.

The bridge closed to vehicular traffic on Jan. 2 and will not reopen until late 2021, and some Wright Dunbar business owners are worried the closure will hurt their drop-in traffic and sales.

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