The historic Welnick Marketplace, a former open-air market at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Van Buren Street, is being restored to resemble how it looked when it was built in 1927.
Jim Kuykendall, vice president and chief financial officer of Bar-S Foods Co., is partnering with former firefighter Pat Cantelme on the restoration project. Kuykendall also hired Sherry Rampy, a realtor specializing in downtown historic properties as a consultant.
“Some people would say it was the A.J.’s of its day,” Rampy said. “I would say it was actually more like the Whole Foods of its day.”
The marketplace is separated into two buildings, both 7,000 square feet. The east building housed the Liefgreen Seed Company in the 1920s, where farmers would come to buy feed for their animals and seeds for their crops.
When the building opened, there was a bakery and a train delivered fresh fish daily, Rampy said. The building was one of the first in Phoenix to have refrigeration.
Rampy said after the open-air market closed, several companies rented out the building space, including a car dealership.
Dave Reiff, owner of a printing company, purchased the building in 1967. During this time, the interior became mostly office space. The awnings on the exterior were removed and several windows were covered.
After Reiff’s death, the building became vacant as it has remained for the last decade.
The building was under contract for demolition in 2010. However, in 2014, Kuykendall bought the building with Cantelme.
“I’ve always been interested in historical architecture,” Kuykendall said. “It was really learning the history of the building that convinced me to partner up with Pat and proceed with the rehabilitation of this building.”
When he bought the building, Kuykendall removed the entirety of its interior. Kuykendall said he wanted to restore the building to its original form. To do this, he hired architect Bob Graham.
Graham is an architect who specializes in historic preservation. His company, Motley Design Group, is the firm responsible for the restoration of the DeSoto Central Market, which recently celebrated its first anniversary.
The next step, after hiring Graham, was to get a historic preservation grant from the city of Phoenix and state designation. Rampy is currently in the process of getting federal historic preservation designation.
“Here is a building that had a demo permit on it in 2010 and now it’s going to be fully restored and designated,” Rampy said.
Once the efforts to renovate the building to its original form began, two important discoveries were made. Kuykendall said the group was lucky enough to stumble upon the original blueprints of the 1927 building.
After some of the features that had been added over the years were removed, several signs, such as the Liefgreen Seed signs, remained.
After renovations are finished, Kuykendall said the plan is to have six tenants in the building, most of whom Rampy said will be local retail. Kuykendall said the first tenant will occupy their space in the building on September 1. The next tenant, who will occupy a much larger space, will move in in November, Kuykendall said.
Contact the reporter at Daniel.Perle@asu.edu.