Buyer of former Southern Camera building on Government Street in discussions with restaurants _lowres

Rendering provided by MATTHEW SHIRLEY - The old Southern Camera Service building on Government Street could become a restaurant, with a patio facing the street and parking behind the building.

The former Southern Camera Service building on Government Street has a buyer who is “actively talking” to restaurant owners in Baton Rouge and New Orleans about leasing the building.

Matthew Shirley said he’s set to close on the building in less than a month. Shirley, who is developing the site at 2978 Government St. separate from his job as an agent with Saurage Rotenberg Commercial Real Estate, said he’s buying the property for $350,000.

“We’re happy to participate in any improvements to get this property back into commerce,” Shirley said. “We’re excited about the location and very optimistic about Government Street.”

Shirley said a few “familiar names” from the local restaurant scene have expressed interest in leasing the property. He said the highest and best use for the 3,150-square-foot building probably would be food and beverage.

“We want to be picky and get something that’s the right fit for the neighborhood,” he said.

The property was rezoned about a year ago to allow for a restaurant with commercial alcoholic beverage sales. There’s room for 25 to 30 off-street parking spots behind the building. “That’s a huge plus,” Shirley said. The off-street parking fits in with the new design requirements for Government Street, which promote pedestrian- and bike-friendly developments. Renderings for the building show a patio in the front, allowing diners to look out on Government Street while they eat a meal or enjoy a cocktail.

“We want to do it good,” said Shirley, who lives near the building. “We’re not just going to pour a slab. We want to do something real nice.”

The building has been vacant for several years since the camera business closed.

Geordy Waters of Waters & Pettit Commercial Real Estate, who had the listing for the property, said selling the building was an emotional process for Joyce McIntire, whose family owned the camera business. “She’s excited about the sale and a chance to put the building back into commerce,” he said.

Follow Timothy Boone on Twitter, @TCB_TheAdvocate.