Sean Fitzpatrick and Anne Carpenter, the owners of the Illahee Apartments, have purchased the Morton Nelson Building, home of J.C. Penney until its closure last summer.

Fitzpatrick and Christopher Holen, chef and co-owner of Baked Alaska, are planning a collection of restaurants and other retail vendors inside the Commercial Street building.

The closure of J.C. Penney last summer hit the downtown hard, Fitzpatrick said.

“A lot of people approached me, asking me what I could do with the space,” he said. “I gave it considerable thought, but didn’t want to take it on by myself.”

Fitzpatrick said Holen, a longtime friend, asked him one night what was needed in the building.

“From the way he asked, I knew we were on the same page,” Fitzpatrick said. “I told him I had a very good idea about what was needed at the building, and if he was serious about working on it with me, we should move forward with it.  We were on the same wavelength from the start.”

The developers are gathering contractors to remodel the inside of the building, with a planned opening some time in the fall.

J.C. Penney moved into the three-story Morton Nelson Building in 1924 after a large fire gutted much of downtown, including the retailer’s prior location. The company announced last year it would close 130 to 140 stores amid competition from online and niche retailers, a similar issue faced by other large chain stores such as Sears and Macy’s.

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