The first stage of a $1 million, years-long renovation of the historic St. Francisville Inn has started.

Jim Johnston, who purchased the 10-room inn with his husband, Brandon Branch, said the plan is to make the property a four-star attraction offering amazing service and food.

“We’re the third set of owners to come in as this has been operating as an inn and it’s time for a new set of eyes,” Johnston said.

The first phase, which will cost about $500,000, will involve installing new landscaping at the inn, repainting and redecorating the property, gutting the rooms, building new owner’s quarters and adding a guest room, commercial kitchen and bar.

While the inn currently serves breakfast, the property plans to start offering light appetizers at the bar in the evenings, Johnston said. All of the additional work will double the number of employees at the St. Francisville Inn to eight.

Maginnis Construction of St. Francisville is the contractor. The goal is to finish the work for an April 15 grand re-opening.

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Plans are to do the second phase of the renovation in about two years. That would involve moving the owner’s quarters out of the inn, and turning that space into as many guest rooms as possible. The third phase, which would be done two year after that, would involve constructing additional buildings on the grounds, such as a conference center. Those phases would cost about $250,000 each, Johnston said.

Johnston and Branch came from Savannah, Georgia. They looked at the inn for about two years before buying the property.

This is the first time the two men have operated an inn. Johnston said they both bring different skills to the table.

Branch is a former creative director for Paula Deen Enterprises, with a background in horticulture. He’ll handle the decorating, food and cocktail offerings. Johnston has a background in accounting, with knowledge of computer systems and the technical aspects of construction.

“We’ve traveled the world and we know what we like in an inn,” Johnston said. “We’re going to bring all of our experiences to this.”

Follow Timothy Boone on Twitter, @TCB_TheAdvocate.