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A well-known row of artisan stores and residences along downtown Salt Lake City's Pierpont Avenue has changed ownership and tenants fear evictions may be coming.

Long associated with gallery strolls held by former leasee Artspace, the century-old Eccles Browning Warehouse on West Pierpont Avenue between 300 West and 400 West was sold in late January to an out-of-state developer of multifamily residential projects, records indicate.

Weeks after being notified of the sale via letter, merchants, professionals and other tenants say they've heard next to nothing about their new landlord, the building's long-term fate or the chances of extending their leases.

Despite assurances they can stay, several Pierpont shopkeepers said they are already seeking new digs. Many, though, are daunted by the prospect of relocating to more expensive commercial spaces elsewhere in the city's core.

"The days of cheap rent downtown are over," said Teresa Spas, owner of TissĂș Fine Fabrics and Design Gallery at 345 W. Pierpont (240 South). "I had a hell of a deal here and I knew that. I was just hoping it would last."

The Utah property-management company hired to oversee the building sought to assuage the fears of its 30 or so tenants, saying the new owners "are going to initiate new leases with everyone" and that there were no plans to tear down the blond-brick structure.

"It's a very unique building," said Holly Bradford, co-owner of Salt Lake City-based LB Hunt Management Group.

Though tenants have asked, Bradford said, LB Hunt was under contract not to disclose the new owners' identity. "They've hired us to take care of it."

Property records show the building purchase was executed through a Utah-registered limited-liability corporation, Pierpont TPII. State corporate filings list Pierpont TPII as having the same address as Timberlane Partners, a Seattle-based real-estate investment firm whose other holdings include upscale apartment complexes in western Washington and east Los Angeles.

Attempts to reach officials at Timberlane Partners via email and phone were unsuccessful.

County records indicate the same company also owns The Mercer, a newly built, 73-unit apartment project at 556 E. 300 South in Salt Lake City, a few blocks from Trolley Square mall. Timberlane's website describes The Mercer as "perfectly situated to benefit from the development and emergence" of downtown.

The company website also touts Timberlane's ability to find "properties that can be immediately improved" and says it aspires to make "cultural stewardship, excellence in design, and affordability without compromise" key features of its future developments.

The Pierpont sale comes amid a historic upswing of apartment construction across the region, including several large projects in west downtown Salt Lake City. That stretch of West Pierpont Avenue is located immediately north of Broadway Park Lofts, a new complex of high-rise condominiums that broke sales records when it went on the market last year.

Mike Green, owner of Green Glass Art at 347 W. Pierpont, pointed to the ownership change as another sign of downtown gentrification, ousting artists and moderate-income residents to make way for new and more lucrative development.

"I've been looking some but I'm never going to find what I have now," said Green, an artist who lives and works in his Pierpont space.

Longtime Pierpont tenant Kate Bullen called the predicament "nerve-wracking." The lease on her vintage furniture store, Elementé, 353 W. Pierpont, a presence on the block for 26 years, lapsed in December, she said, and she has not received notification of an extension. Without more specifics, Bullen said, shop owners were finding it difficult to plan.

"Being in limbo," she said, "is not a easy place to be."

Jen McGrew, specialty seamstress and proprietor of custom costumer McGrew Studios, 333 W. Pierpont, said uncertainty has also led her to hunt for new locations, including at Artspace Bridge Projects, at 511 W. 200 South.

"We all have known what a great deal we had," McGrew said. "It's like I'm almost surprised we had this long."

Built in 1910, reportedly as a market, the 80,000-square-foot Eccles Browning Warehouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, according to Kirk Huffaker, executive director of the Utah Heritage Foundation. The designation is honorary, however, and does not restrict what an owner can do with the structure.

The building was converted to housing, studios, offices and retail shops in the 1980s. That project led to the formation of Artspace, a not-for-profit group devoted to creating affordable spaces for artists. The group's 25-year lease expired in 2008.

Twitter: @Tony_Semerad