A Nashville developer who grew up in Decatur says he is acquiring multiple properties on Bank Street to renovate for retail and restaurant spaces on the street level and residential areas above.
The only property that developer Steve Armistead would identify is the Inglis House of Lamps at 814 Bank St. The 1909 building that originally was Tennessee Valley Bank has marble on part of its floor and entrance wall, a 16-by-8-foot skylight and an indoor oval balcony with pine railing that overlooks the ground floor.
“You can’t duplicate these buildings,” Armistead said. “Downtown Decatur has so much character, and the possibilities are absolutely tremendous.”
Barry Smith, who has worked at Inglis House 38 years and owned the property with his wife Jerrie since 1991, said he has a contract to sell to Armistead, but a closing date hasn’t been set. Smith is selling off his inventory.
Armistead said no decisions have been made on what any of the properties would become, but an upscale restaurant is one option for the Inglis House.
“It lends itself to that,” he said.
The project will include multiple properties, Armistead said, so he can decide which spots make sense for restaurants and which would work better as retail.
“We will craft the mix as we go along, as we acquire and as we repurpose the buildings,” he said. “We would like to see more restaurants here, which will bring in more people and more activity, other retail, and that will also bring people to the area to live.”
Rick Paler, executive director of the Decatur Downtown Redevelopment Authority, said Armistead has been talking to him about his plans for close to a year.
“He does his homework,” Paler said. “He’s going to be cautious and wants to make sure everything is in place” before he moves forward.
Paler said Armistead’s project could benefit Bank Street by getting other investors interested in initiating redevelopment projects and by attracting consumers to the additional retail and restaurant options.
“If you really begin to build a critical mass with both of those, it becomes a destination,” Paler said.
Armistead said he has investors for his Bank Street project and a preliminary plan for what he hopes to accomplish. A 1974 graduate of Decatur High, he has spent 30 years in Nashville real estate, including helping redevelop part of its downtown known as The Gulch. He is a partner with his brother David in Decatur’s Tennessee Valley Pecan Co. and became more interested in Bank Street after moving the business there.
“Urban redevelopment is my past, so if I can come back here to a place I love and bring that expertise and make it happen here, then it’s win-win,” he said.
Armistead said he hoped closings on property purchases could begin in September. Asked for the value of the project, he said "it’s difficult to put a dollar amount on it at this point."
Armistead said his project is not connected to renovation underway on a property on the northeast end of Bank Street. Developer Brent Collins with the Core Construction Group hasn’t said publicly what he plans at 826 Bank St. Two building permits obtained this year were for foundation work and removal of interior walls and ceiling panels.
Armistead said part of his interest in Bank Street was fueled by progress downtown that includes the renovated railroad depot, Alabama Center for the Arts and the developing Cook Museum of Natural Science.
“Those are all indicators of growth that is coming,” he said.
Armistead previously announced plans to build urban cottages in a development called Bank Street Station on the lower end of the street between Cain and Cherry streets.
He said Bank Street Station, which is being marketed locally by Kim Hallmark, has “a few commitments,” and other potential buyers have shown interest. He said the first construction on that development could start this year.
“I was under no illusion they would fly off the shelf because it’s such a new thing,” he said.
“A lot of this initiative is to bring the younger generation back to Decatur. Heretofore they have not have had many (alternatives) other than single-family homes. So, now they need a different lifestyle to attract them. That is what a lot of this initiative is about, to bring life back to downtown Decatur.”