A few months back, we told you about plans to tear down some buildings at the corner of 7th & Christian in favor of new construction. To review, developers had 630-638 Christian St. under agreement, with plans to build seven homes with ten parking spaces in place of the existing buildings on the site. Though none of the buildings in question are designated historic, one of them was the childhood home of famous tenor Mario Lanza, while the building at the corner was originally built as the home of the relatively short lived Banca Calabrese. Many of that building’s original details are gone, but a few have managed to survive the ravages of time.
The developers presented their plans to the community back in April, and it wasn’t received with a whole lot of enthusiasm. Bella Vista Neighbors Association wrote a lengthy letter to the ZBA in opposition to the project, taking issue with the heights of the homes, the lack of open space, and the fact that the development used Christian Street to access its drive-aisle, rather than 7th Street. The community narrowly came out against the project, while the neighborhood’s zoning committee was unanimous in its opposition. Situations like this typically lead to developers reconsidering their proposals rather than risk decimation at the ZBA. And it seems that’s happening.
We were going past the property earlier this week, doing our best to manage the torn up roads all the while. We noticed a ‘For Rent’ sign on the Banca Calabrese building, which seemed like a pretty good indication it wouldn’t be torn down. We called the number and learned that the space has been vacant for years but was most recently used as a candy shop. The owners are currently cleaning out the space, and you can see they’ve removed the old ice cube windows. We have to think they’ll install large windows in those new openings, which will make the retail space much more attractive to potential tenants.
They’re still trying to figure out the desired rental rate for the commercial space, but given the location we don’t imagine they’ll ask for a king’s ransom. Also, we didn’t get into specifics on the phone, but we learned that they’re still working through new plans for the adjacent properties. With the corner building sticking around, the plans for the rest of the site will obviously have to change. We wonder whether the developers will just opt for a by-right project, which would entail an apartment building with no parking. We imagine the near neighbors would prefer single-family homes with parking, but if they didn’t support homes back in April, it’s possible the developers will simply proceed with the path of least resistance. It happens all the time, and it could happen here too.