George and Janice Stem pose for a quick photo on the rooftop patio of the Wesley.
When a big Downtown staple, Massanelli Cleaner’s closed, a big void was left on Union. The building had been a fixture for the Downtown community since 1947 when the Massanelli family opened the only laundry and dry cleaning service in town. After suffering a fire in 1963 and rebuilding, the family operated the business until late 2005. After changing owners, the business closed in 2015, where it sat empty for almost a year.
That is, until Hayden Stem took notice.
In March of 2016, George Stem purchased the building and immediately got to work on renovating it. Recognizing the need for more Downtown housing, and noting the importance of a building icon like Massanelli’s, George quickly got to work rehabbing the space for 11 new lofts. Last week, we had the opportunity to take a tour of the newly renovated building and see the work first hand while interviewing George and Janice about the project at 222 Union Street.
Tell us about your project on Union.
My grandson (Hayden Stem) came to me about the old Massanelli Cleaners being for sale. I wasn’t interested at first but as soon as he and I walked through it, I decided to bring along partners Sean Stem, Ryan Kibler, and Janice Stem for a look. They all liked the idea if me and Janice were up to the challenge. Together we have done so many projects over the years, we agreed this would be fun to work on something where we could utilize our own creativity and make something special. I sought out assistance from architect Jim Little (Little & Associates) for the layout. I also had a really neat idea for the parking, which has 8 covered vehicle spots for our tenants.
What are some really cool features of this loft?
The really cool features we enjoyed working on were the roof-top decks. Requiring substantial engineering design, they include a fire pit, electrical outlets (hello movie nights!), and the great views overlooking Union Street. My wife, Janice, was the one who oversaw the design elements. She really liked the look of the building before we started, and wanted to use accents like new rock and shutter style canopies, which were custom designed. She also did the interior design work inside, where you can find exposed brick, sleek modern cabinetry, and original flooring.
We hear there’s an app for the Wesley?
Yes, there is! We worked closely with Gateway Engineering to come up with the control system for security and locks using an app. No one needs a key to live or park there, but you will need to own an iPhone. How cool is it to be sitting on the top deck with your friends, and by one touch of a button on your phone, you can buzz them in!
What is the most rewarding part of developing a residential project for Downtown Jonesboro?
The most rewarding part would be freedom to design all of the special features for the Wesley, and to leave our own fingerprints on this project, and Downtown. I joked with Janice later saying that IKEA could probably make a really cool commercial out of this, since we used a lot of furniture and design accessories inside the Wesley! Another aspect of doing a residential project is the creativity. As a General Contractor, most of your construction is done precisely as the owner and architects request and you don’t have the freedom to express your own ideas. It’s also rewarding to provide some unique living opportunities for young professionals and A-State students.
Do you have other projects coming up for Downtown Jonesboro?
I have definitely enjoyed doing this project Downtown, and have my eye on two other proposals for Union. The Wesley has been a great opportunity for us to do a residential project Downtown, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we did another similar to it.
What would you tell someone that hasn’t been Downtown yet?
For anyone that has not considered Downtown Jonesboro for living or working, I encourage them to come by and take a look at what we’ve done. Hard work has definitely paid off, and now Downtown Jonesboro has more lofts, therefore people enjoying our Main Street community. It was also helpful to have lots of encouragement along the way from good friends like Kent Arnold, who constantly thanked us and let us know we were bringing positive energy to Union Street. It’s been a rewarding experience, and we’re proud to be a part of what’s happening in Jonesboro.
Anything else you’d like people to be aware of?
Individuals interested in leasing out a loft at the Wesley should call (870) 972-5632. One year lease terms are available, with the option of a 1 bedroom (2 total units) $1150/ or a 2 bedroom (9 total units) loft for $1250. The Wesley includes basic amenities such as cable, high speed internet, Wi-Fi, and not to mention quick and convenient access to award winning eateries and retail. And just in case you’re wondering, we love our pets in Downtown Jonesboro, and the Wesley welcomes one furry friend per loft.
Take a look, book a tour, and head to Union Street to check out Downtown’s newest loft digs. We know you’ll love them as much as we do. #ImADowntowner