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Jim Lake Jr. stands in an under-construction loft apartment at Jefferson Tower. Lake’s transformation of the building includes a mercado and room for green space and food trucks at the back of the building. Photo by Danny Fulgencio

Jim Lake Cos. this summer hired Adamson High School standout and Georgetown University scholar Adan Gonzalez as an intern. Part of Gonzalez’s job was to reach out to Jefferson Tower’s Latino neighbors in an effort to find out what they want for the neighborhood.

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That’s how Lake came up with the idea for Jefferson Tower Mercado, which he plans to launch this fall. The market, in a 7,000-square-foot space next door to Family Dollar, will offer small retail spaces for local artists, crafters and start-ups.

A worker paints the ceiling of a loft apartment at Jefferson Tower. Nine apartments will be available by the end of the year, and eight more early next year.

A worker paints the ceiling of a loft apartment at Jefferson Tower. Nine apartments will be available by the end of the year, and eight more early next year. Photo by Danny Fulgencio

The market will have entrances on Jefferson and at the rear of the building. That is part of Lake’s plan to activate all four sides of the tower. All of the shops and restaurant currently face Jefferson, and the other three sides are unused, which Lake thinks is a waste of space.

He is working to buy a portion of the alley from the city, and he plans to create entrances to businesses and the 17 apartment lofts at the rear of the building. Also planned are green spaces, a barbecue pit area and parking for food trucks at the rear. The sides of the building facing Madison and Bishop have less sidewalk space, but Lake envisions offering spaces for pop-up shops on weekends.

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The first new retail tenant since Lake bought the building last year, Small Brewpub, is expected to open soon. Leasing agent Chris Price also has signed an ice cream shop, which will take a small space near the office building’s entrance. And he signed a coffee roaster for a space adjacent to Small Brewpub.

“We’re being very selective about what’s going in here,” Lake says.

The company has extended leases to longtime tenants Ramon’s Barber Shop, Gonzalez restaurant and a jewelry store.

The 17 loft apartments are under construction and for lease. The first nine, on the Madison side, are expected to be available by the end of the year. Eight lofts on the Bishop side will be available early next year.