Changes Afoot For Bella Vista Corner With Some History

The southeast corner of 7th & Christian is home to a building that’s clearly got some historic relevance, the Banca Calabrese building. We told you all about this building’s history a few years back, noting that it was one of several banks established in the early 20th century that catered to the needs of the immigrant Italian population in the area. The name indicates that the bulk of the bank’s customers came from Calabria, at the tip of the Italian boot, and we also understand that the bank worked extensively with construction companies and building contractors. But that was many years ago, back when the building boasted a grand turret at the corner which also kept time.

Banca Calabrese in 1906

We believe the bank closed around the time of the Great Depression, along with many other community banks of the era. Unfortunately, many of the building’s original details are now as extinct as the business that once called it home. The only indications that remain of the building’s history are the crested sculpture above the entrance and the ‘Banca Calabrese’ inscription below the 3rd floor window. Comparing the building’s present condition to its original appearance just bums us out, but here you go:

Current view

There’s another piece of history at this corner, evidenced by the historic marker in the photo above. Famous tenor Mario Lanza was born at 636 Christian St., next door to the former bank. You can see from the hundred something year old image above, this building also once looked much better than it does today. And if you look closely at the newer image, you might be able to see a zoning notice posted to the buildings.

View from the east

630-636 Christian St. were all listed for sale at the end of last year, at an asking price of $1.3M. That doesn’t include the former bank building at the corner, though it seems all of the properties are/were owned by the same party. The listing noted issues with the title, which might explain why no developer rushed to snatch up the properties and the listing was eventually withdrawn. We don’t know whether the original owner has decided to redevelop here or whether someone ultimately came out of the woodwork to buy up the entire corner. Nor do we know what were the title issues, or how they’ve gotten resolved.

Whatever the answers to those questions, it looks like demolition is on the horizon for these properties. According to the zoning application, the plans call for seven new homes here, with three of the homes having 2-car parking and the other four homes having one-car parking. This will entail a curb-cut on Christian Street, which is surely better than seven garages. Of course, the ZBA still needs to weigh in on this project, so it’s not a sure thing just yet. The good news for the developers is that the parcel is zoned for multi-family use, so the alternative would be an eighteen-unit apartment building with no parking, so we suspect the community would prefer the seven-home proposal.

Aside from the ZBA, we suppose a historic nomination could be another fly in the ointment for any development proposal for this site. We don’t see this as a particularly likely issue though, given the significantly degraded state of the Banca Calabrese building. Nevertheless, it sure would be cool for the developer to find a way to pay tribute to the Banca Calabrese building in the construction of the new project. Might we suggest bringing back the clock tower turret at the corner?