Spartanburg’s Montgomery Building Selected for 2021 Honor Award from Preservation South Carolina

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“This is one of the most extraordinary projects that has ever been submitted,” said Mike Bedenbaugh, President and CEO of Preservation South Carolina.

“The challenges that had to be overcome with this building, most of the time, would have led to the demolition of other buildings. That’s why it deserves this award.” The thoughtful restoration of Spartanburg’s Montgomery Building has also sparked improvements in Spartanburg’s economy and community.

About the Award 

Preservation South Carolina, the SC Department of Archives and History, and the Office of the Governor have recognized exceptional accomplishments in the preservation, rehabilitation and interpretation of the state’s architectural and cultural heritage with a series of awards since 1995.

The Honor Awards celebrate successful and exemplary historic preservation projects around the Palmetto State. In order to be considered by the selection panel, projects must have been completely finished, including all phases, within the last three years, have had a positive impact on the community and/or the state and achieve a degree of project difficulty while serving as an example of outstanding commitment to historic preservation and exemplary preservation techniques.

About the Montgomery Building Restoration 

For two decades, the Montgomery Building, located along North Church Street in downtown Spartanburg remained vacant.  After years of neglect, the ten-story building’s precast concrete façade was deteriorating to the point that it was necessary to erect scaffolding along the buildings’ perimeter to protect pedestrians on the street from falling debris.

First opened in 1924, the Montgomery Building was one of the first Chicago-style skyscrapers completed outside of Chicago. During its heyday, the building was a prominent fixture in Spartanburg’s textile manufacturing industry. Later in its life, the building enjoyed prominent office tenants including BMW Manufacturing Company.

Despite its storied history and iconic stature, it seemed the Montgomery Building was doomed for eventual demolition. Several developers had tried to restore the building over the years and failed because of the challenges with how it was built and the extensive repairs needed. Until 2015, when developer and current owner, BF Spartanburg, came forward with a plan to revitalize the building that city officials praised as a “next-level” catalyst for the city.

Tom Finnegan, a Managing Partner of BF Spartanburg LLC, said, “We wanted to return the building back to its former relevance and stature because we know how much this building means to the people of Spartanburg.”

McMillan Pazdan Smith was selected to perform the feasibility study and to be the Architect of Record for the historic renovation. Because the building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the owners took advantage of Federal and State historic tax credits to assist with financing the project. MPS worked closely with the South Carolina State Historic Preservation Office and the National Park Service to meet its criteria for preserving and rehabilitating the building.

Using the original Lockwood Greene drawings as a guide, the MPS team painstakingly documented the original design elements that remained and carefully created construction details so that these elements could be replicated, reusing the remaining pieces and recreating those that were missing, including decorative plaster ceilings and capitals, marble floors and walls, and wood trim.

The finished product is approximately 127,000 SF that includes select boutique retail shops and restaurants on the ground floor, dedicated office space on the second and third floors, and residential apartments on the remaining floors. The economic impact on the City of Spartanburg was felt immediately with most of the space being occupied within the first year. Business activity and foot traffic has also increased on Church Street as a result of the building’s restoration.

“These types of projects are extremely important to communities because people are connected to the buildings in a personal way and the reuse of historic buildings is proven to spur community development around them,” said Donald L. Love Jr. AIA, Preservation Architect and Architect of Record on the project.

The renovation project required a team of architects from McMillan Pazdan Smith tweaking thousands of details to ensure both historic accuracy and a final design that would turn what had become a blight to Spartanburg’s revitalized downtown into something the city and South Carolina could be proud of again. The McMillan Pazdan Smith project team was led by K.J. Jacobs, AIA LEED AP, architect and Principal in Charge, said Jacobs, “Projects like this are why people like me become architects.”

MPS teamed with Harper General Contractors to complete the extensive restoration effort and reproduce the building’s original design. “The Montgomery Building has stories, history, and most importantly; it has a lot more life left in it. Harper has been given the opportunity to be woven into this building’s historic fabric,” says David Wise, Harper’s President. “It’s an honor to be able to return this building to Spartanburg as close as possible to its original form.”

Commonwealth Preservation Group out of Norfolk, VA was the tax credit consultant.

In addition to this latest award, the Montgomery Building restoration has also received: The Palladio Award, a juried prize sponsored by Traditional Building Magazine, the ONLY national award given for excellence in traditional design. ENR Southeast’s 2019 Best Projects - Award of Merit. CREW Upstate 2019 Developmental Impact Award. The Gignilliat Preservation Award from the Spartanburg County Historical Association.

Prepared by OneSpartanburg, Inc.