Dealer's choice: Home or office? Up to you

ADDRESS: Unit 201B at 408 E. Market St.

ASKING: $325,000

SIZE: 2033 fin. sq. ft.

YEAR BUILT: 1946, converted to condos 1987

NEIGHBORHOOD: Downtown

CURB APPEAL: 6 out of a possible 10

LISTED BY: Larry Howard, Four Seasons Realty, 293-4664

This week's On the Block is neither fish nor fowl. If you're a businessperson in need of an office– and wouldn't mind some extra income– this combination of three condominiums in the Maclin Building might be just the thing.

If you're looking for downtown digs, have some imagination, and want to design yourself a trendy pied-a-terre one block from all the excitement on the Mall, you can do that here as well.

In short, the space is mutable, and the way you use it totally up to you.

The Maclin Building was converted from a car dealership to condominiums in the mid-'80s. An added third story was reserved exclusively for residences, and reportedly there are some eye-poppers up there.

The first and second floors were set aside for offices current tenants include dentists, lawyers, a photographer, and even a real estate agency. But the board of directors has now changed the rules to allow residences on all floors, which multiplies the possibilities.

Of these three units on the second floor (currently comprising 12 rooms), the first (and the one with the highest ooh-la-la factor) has two large windows facing Market Street, floors of some exotic tropical hardwood (the agent wasn't sure what kind), and several built-in bookcases.

The second unit is rented to the photographer, and the third is encumbered by a four-year lease to an attorney. So someone needing an office has the option of setting up shop in the fancy unit and collecting rent from the other two (currently $520/month each) to help with the mortgage and the $300 monthly condo fee (which doesn't include any utilities).

Someone hoping to make a home in the heart of hip happenings can take over the first two units, add a kitchen and bath (or two), reconfigure the rest of the space, and make plans for expansion when the lawyer's lease is up in 2007.

A central hall that connects the units conveys and presents interesting possibilities, especially if the last piece of the puzzle– a fourth unit which is not part of the current deal– ever becomes available (and if money is no object).

The agent reports that a total makeover of the lobby and exterior, including a copper awning over the entrance, is about to begin. That's good news as the present entrance, set back farther from the street than surrounding buildings, is not impressive and in fact renders the place almost invisible to passersby.

The condo fee includes elevator service and, according to the agent, a virtually instant response to any complaints or problems from the on-site maintenance company. Unfortunately, parking a huge problem downtown– is not included. Residents have a guaranteed space in the city garage right across the street (beyond Tastings), but the cost for that little perk is about to rise to $95/month.

So how do you want to play it?

People looking for something unusual downtown might be intrigued with the evolving-home possibility– 2/3 now, l/3 later and the opportunity to design their own unique space as opposed to settling for some developer's idea of paradise.

A small-business owner with modest current needs but plans for expansion can satisfy both here. Consider it a sort of one size fits all. Make of it what you will.

 PHOTOS BY JEN FARIELLO

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