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 Tobacco Square Being Converted into Condos

A local developer is ready to convert Tobacco Square, a former tobacco warehouse and later an office building, into 30 for-sale residential condominimums.

Chris Kellner, a partner in Tobacco Square LLC and also owner of Kellner Custom Builders in Winston-Salem, said work has already begun on the project, just north of central business district. It will be called Eight Thirty Six Oak. The units are slated to be ready for occupancy by the fall of 2007.

In addition, Kellner said the future could hold a second building for the 3-acre tract. Though the size of that has yet to be determined, he said, it would be designed for more condos.

“That’s a down-the-road idea,” he said. When completed, Eight Thirty Six Oak will be a $7 million Project, Kellner said, not including a second building. The first set of units will range from about 750 square feet to about 1,350 square feet and be a mix of 22 two-bedroom units and eight one-bedroom condos. Prices will range between $159,000 and $329,000, Kellner said. Kellner will keep some of the circa-1910 wood beams and exposed steel in the ceiling, although the original floor will be covered up by either wood or carpet, depending the room.

Eight Thirty Six Oak will join a variety of condo projects planned or under construction downtown, but it is the first one north of Eight Street, with the exception of the Goler development, which is northeast of traditional downtown boundaries.

According to the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership, more than 600 residential units are under construction or planned for downtown, including the Goler Project.

“If I was doing 300 (units), I would be concerned,” Kellner said. “But we’re only doing 30, and I think this project has some advantages.”

Sitting on the top of a hill, Eight Thirty Six Oak, which is currently home to local offices of the Salvation Army, the Department of Corrections and Winston-Salem Parks & Recreation, will have a view north that will include Pilot Mountain, and a view to the south of downtown, especially from the fifth story.

“The building is wonderful for that use,” said Jason Thiel, President of the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership. “Given the successes on Trade Street just south of Tobacco square), this would make a logical bookend to the development pattern, which is moving north.”

Kellner said his ownership group, which also includes two investors he declined to identify, needs to have half the units sold before most of the works begins. He said he doesn’t except that to be an issue.

Kellner has been working on the project since January, when he first looked at the building. By July, he had the building purchased, but would disclose details of the renovations..

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