Editor's Note: This story originally appeared in the Jan. 7, 2019 issue of GSA Busines Report.
One of the tallest buildings in Spartanburg is open for business.
The $29.5 million renovation of the 10-story, 120,000-square-foot Montgomery Building is complete. The 94-year-old building on North Church Street now houses apartments, retail space and office space.
“Today is a day that a lot of people, for a long time, never thought would come. A Spartanburg icon is back and that’s worth celebrating,” said Allen Smith, president and CEO of the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce, during a grand opening event in December. “This building is indeed representative of downtown Spartanburg’s rebirth, revitalization and resurgence.”
Smith said when he first moved to Spartanburg four years ago, he participated in a planning retreat and posed this question: “If you had $50 million, how would you use it to move Spartanburg forward?”
“One of my board members said, ‘My first priority would be to demolish that albatross called the Montgomery Building,’” Smith said.
A number of developers looked at the property over the years. Ultimately it was Tom Finnegan and his partner James Bakker, both with BF Spartanburg LLC, who saw the possibilities in the building that once was home to The Carolina, a theater that had a week-long engagement of the movie “Gone with the Wind” six weeks after it premiered in Atlanta, Ga. The Carolina hosted live performances as well, including a visit by Elvis Presley in February 1956 to play the 600-seat theater.
“I remember when we first walked through here, the ceiling was falling in, there was trash everywhere, plaster was falling. Just to be able to recreate this and bring it back together has been quite a journey,” Bakker said.
“It’s really hard to believe if you had seen this two years ago. This place just looked like a complete disaster,” Finnegan said.
The Montgomery Building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2011. The nomination form for the designation highlights the history of the long-standing building. The information in its listing shows the Montgomery Building was built when a group of local men decided to organize a company to build and operate a modern 10-story office building. It was to be of fireproof construction and house a movie theater and stores on the ground floor with offices above. Because descendants of Captain John Montgomery, the founder of Spartan Mills, took a leading part in the project, the building was called the Montgomery Building.
Many textile companies set up shop in the building, including Pacolet Manufacturing Co., Royal Manufacturing Co., the South Carolina Cotton Manufacturers Association, Arcadia Mills and Inman Mills.
The Montgomery Building continued to be a popular business address until the 1980s, according to the National Register of Historic Places. As the textile industry struggled, those offices closed and tenants began vacating the building. Businesses began building their own buildings or renting spaces in stand-alone buildings. During the 1990s and into the new millennium, tenants continued to vacate the Montgomery Building. WSPA housed some its offices and a satellite broadcasting studio in the building into the early 2000s.
The newly-renovated Montgomery Building features apartments for rent on the fourth through 10th floors. Sidewall Pizza Co. and Little River Roasting Co. are among the businesses moving in.
“Building downtown Spartanburg is the ultimate team sport. We are fortunate as a city to have partners that recognize the importance of downtown development and are with us every step of the way,” said Chris Story, Spartanburg city manager, during the grand opening event.