It’s out with the old and in with the new in Justin.
The aging buildings at FM156 and West 3rd Street in Justin that once housed the famous Gilmore hot links has been demolished to make way for the first major development project in downtown Justin in recent memory, a 5,870-square foot, mixed-use property for restaurant and retail space.
Lenore Hicks, a Justin native and the daughter of the man who built the first three structures on the corner lot more than 50 years ago, is undertaking the new project and oversaw the demolition.
The building is expected to be ready in early next year.
“This is a lot of expense to go through — no one made her do this,” according to Hicks’ real estate agent, Cathy Green. “We don’t have quality buildings in downtown Justin, so with her taking this, it’s almost like a philanthropist. ... Everyone in this town is excited because this is going to be the hallmark building to start the facelift of downtown Justin.”
Community leaders expect the development will be a catalyst for change, as the city is anticipating an uptick in traffic when FM156 is expanded from two to four lanes. The street that leads visitors through the downtown area is currently a rural two-lane roadway. The upcoming project will expand the road, as well as add more parking and sidewalk space, Justin City Manager Ashley Stathatos said.
“It will basically be a big facelift for the city,” she said. “It’s a high-impact project that will serve as a catalyst to spur private investment.”
Bids for the highway project are scheduled to begin in June 2015, according to the Texas Department of Transportation, which is collaborating with Denton County and the city of Justin on the project. The road, which is estimated to cost $25.9 million, will stretch 4.7 miles from State Highway 114 to 12th Street in Justin.
About a year ago, Hicks started to consider building a new development and looked at properties with Green along FM407 before she realized she already owned property in an ideal location.
“When the idea of the renovation of 156 came along, I realized that should bring in so much more traffic ... and I decided 156 is what I need to be on,” Hicks said.
Hicks said she is taking a bit of a risk with the project, as construction is set to start in the next few weeks. As of yet, she has no scheduled tenants. However, Stathotos doesn’t think she will have trouble renting out the space, as the city has received more requests for retail space than is currently available.
“I don’t think anyone has any doubt in their mind that the space will be leased out once it’s built,” Stathotos said. “It will provide some space we need for retail and restaurants. Right now, more people come here that are interested in being downtown than we have space.”
The space is designed for a restaurant to be the anchor on the north end of the building, with a covered outside dining area and fireplace, as well as kitchen features including a grease trap, Hicks said.
Green said that whatever restaurant occupies the space will be a big boost for Justin, since a lot of people eat at home or go out of town to dine out.
“The restaurant is going to be lucky because we have a lot of fast-food places here, but we only truly have a couple of other cafe-style restaurants, and now people will stay here and eat,” she said.
The rest of the building will be space for retail and offices, Hicks said. This portion is not yet divided into separate spaces, which will depend on what potential tenants want. Outside, the building’s exterior will have stone and wood and give off a western feel, Stathatos said.
“It kind of has this western theme going on, so the design of the building is in line with that and fits us,” she said. “We’re trying to, I guess, create a look and feel to downtown, and she’s doing that with her building.”
The building will take approximately 120 days to complete, give or take a few days depending on bad weather, builder Keith Acklie said. Once it is built and rented out, Green and Stathatos said it will be a focal point for downtown Justin and a sign of what’s to come for the city.
“To some bigger cities it might just seem like one building, but to us, it’s really important because of where it’s located — the entrance of our downtown,” Stathatos said. “We’re all behind this redevelopment and what it means for this community.”
JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.