The former Hilltop Theater, which sat unused for years before being refurbished and opening as the cocktail bar Red Herring, has been reimagined as a unique workspace by Kentucky Select Properties.
After Red Herring closed last August, the building’s owner, Mo Deljoo, hadn’t put it on the market, but Jay Gulick, the Kentucky Select Properties co-owner, knew the space well and was interested.
While in talks to lease the building, located at 1757 Frankfort Ave., Gulick said he read a New York Times article that said restaurants in Manhattan had been sub-leasing dining room space during the daytime to help pay high Manhattan rent prices, opening the restaurant in the evening. Gulick saw something similar for Hilltop Theater.
He connected with Deljoo via another Hilltop tenant, PRG Commercial Property Advisors, and proposed his concept. Deljoo was sold.
“I had been to Red Herring as a customer,” Gulick said. “As someone who absolutely loves historic architecture, it always struck me. I think he was excited to see what our usage was for the space.”
The structure, built in 1905, features original crown molding, tiled floor, vaulted ceilings and exposed brick. Five months were required to convert it from a restaurant and bar to a working office, complete with fiber internet and Wi-Fi.
The layout of the bar and restaurant largely remains, with the former bar serving as a laptop-friendly workspace. Behind the bar, shelves that held liquor are now home to awards the company has won.
“Where there once was bourbon, there are now trophies,” Gulick said.
Across from the bar are several more workstations agents and other employees can use at will. On the opposite side of the main floor is what Gulick calls a “living room” area with a sofa, chairs and a flat screen TV where agents can watch listings scroll by.
If the weather is warm, they can step outside and work in a patio area.
Upstairs in a mezzanine area are several offices with sliding glass doors for company leaders, plus a shared workspace for the seven administrative and marketing staff members Kentucky Select Properties employs.
The former kitchen was converted into a small lunchroom as well as a large shared workspace for 12 to 14, which Gulick calls “the Quiet Room.”
Gulick said Kentucky Select Properties signed a 10-year lease, adding, “We’re in for the long haul.”
The concept allows the 5,500-square-foot space to continue its tradition as being a gathering place, first as a neighborhood movie theater, later as a bar and restaurant, and now space where real estate agents can convene or use as a workspace throughout the day.
While the real estate business’ independent-contractor agents spend much of their days meeting with clients and showing houses, they also have business to conduct online, meaning they often will work from coffee shops and other businesses with public Wi-Fi. The Hilltop Theater can now serve as that spot, but it’s centralized to the business.
Kentucky Select Properties also procured a former residential home next door, remodeled it and now uses it as a meeting and training space as well as a space for closings. The annex, located at 1749 Frankfort Ave., adds another 1,500 square feet to the footprint.
There was even an unintended benefit.
“It’s been an incredible recruiting tool,” Gulick said. “People see the space, they’re blown away by it, and they want to work here.”