It was old. It was vacant. It was vintage. Now, the barrel roof, steel trusses and industrial windows that were once part of the forsaken Salt Lake Antiques building on the corner of 300 South and 300 East in Salt Lake City are adding to the uniqueness and flavor of the central business district in a new development called "Three and Three UnCommons," a commercial project that will include a restaurant, a retail store and a community/foodhall marketplace.
David Harries, co-owner of Vinto Pizzeria and longtime real estate developer with his real estate partner Pat Reedy, don't focus on restoring historically significant buildings, but they like to buy vintage buildings with uniqueness and personality, restore them and make them sustainable–often as locations for new restaurants.
"When we saw 3rd and 3rd, something gave us the feeling this corner could become a dynamic area for future use. The area hasn't had an anchor like 9th and 9th, or 15th and 15th, but what was appealing was the city's effort to bring more local vitality to this corridor," says Harries. "The city has added new bike lanes on 300 South, which I think is exciting, and the corridor connects the city's east bench with downtown. Working with Lisa Arnett and Prescott Muir of Prescott Muir Architects, our vision is unfolding."
To Harries, renovating the corner of 300 South and 300 East is as much an art project as it is commercial endeavor. He likes to take his time with a renovation project, maintain the uniqueness and "sense of cool" within a building and create something sustainable that will last. That, he adds, is why his projects take longer than the typical developer.
"People have asked, 'Wouldn't it be easier to tear it down and start over?'" he continues. "That's true in most cases, but it's nearly impossible to recreate the authenticity of these older buildings. We've realized that and look for opportunities to mix restoration and financial viability into our projects. For us it is about preserving the nostalgia, character and authenticity of a building. There's an element of 'soul' in old buildings, something that you can't replicate–the cool factor that is found in some of these vintage spaces."
This approach to development is quite unique when compared to developers who look to put up space, lease it and move on. For Harries and Reedy the financial side is only part of the equation. They want 300 South and 300 West to be a unique environment that will help the area evolve and grow, and along the way they hope other building owners in the area will follow suit. For example, the duo peeled back a portion of building's original barrel roof to create a 2,000-square-foot outdoor dining terrace within the confines of the brick structure, which will offer a unique dining experience in the downtown area. Meanwhile, a glass wall curtain will become the exterior component of the restaurant space, allowing natural light to penetrate throughout the entire structure.
To date, the newly renovated, 16,000 square-foot Three and Three UnCommons building is 85 percent leased. Successful restaurateurs Mikel Trapp and Joel La Salle will soon open a 5,500-square-foot seafood-oriented restaurant called "Current" in one corner of the building. Meanwhile, local restaurateur/entrepreneur named Eric DeBonis has leased 8,500 square feet of space for a community/foodhall marketplace that will include artisan food vendors, fresh meats, a fish monger, cheese and other shops.
"It's an unbelievable opportunity for us and him," says Harries of the lease with DeBonis. "He understands our vision and wants to recreate a gathering place where you could buy a cup of coffee, a block of cheese, fresh flowers or seasonal produce."
Harries describes DeBonis as a "passionate food person" and says the latter will create his own shops within the community marketplace or sublet the space to other vendors. "He also plans to integrate a restaurant into the community marketplace and is putting those pieces together now," says Harries.
Another 2,500 square feet of space in the building is available for retail use. Harries says one of the leasing challenges comes from focusing on local tenants rather than national chains. He looks for unique, quality, local businesses that need a second location to expand or new ventures just getting off the ground.
Harries started his first restaurant in Salt Lake City when he was 20 years old and has stayed involved with the industry despite calling it a "love hate relationship." However, his interest and passion is real estate. He's been involved with 10 other renovations in the Salt Lake City and Park City areas. A key factor that keeps him enthused about the Salt Lake City marketplace is its uniqueness and very few barriers to entry for small businesses.
"You couldn't do some of the buildings we have done in other big cities because the costs and challenges would be so horrendous. This is one of the few marketplaces where it is easy to do business. There are just so many positive elements–like our young, intelligent workforce," he adds. "I hope that other Utah cities and the state can maintain that. We can't lose sight of why people like to come here."