A reader tipped us off recently about a big new building currently getting framed at 222 Vine St., and we’re kinda amazed it hasn’t come onto our radar previously. For whatever reason, a one story building was constructed at this address back in 1960, a structure that has housed an art gallery in recent memory. Despite the fact that it’s located within the historic Old City, the building provided absolutely no historic value whatsoever. At least as far as we can tell.
Even though the building was non-contributing to the historic district, the owners still needed to go before the Historical Commission to receive permission to tear it down and build something new in its place. Based on the minutes from their May meeting, it’s clear that the Commission was interested in the new building now under construction, and didn’t really care that the one-story building was coming down. It seems the initial proposal met with resistance from the Architectural Committee, and the developers made numerous changes to the project to make the building more appropriate for the district. It’s hard to visualize exactly what the finished product will look like at this point, but what we can say is that the new building looms large over the rest of the block.
The building, which rises five stories with a mezzanine on the upper floor, will contain 15 apartments which we suspect will be offered as rentals. The footprint of the building is quite small for a structure this tall, checking in at less than 2,400 sqft per floor plate. The parcel is zoned CMX-3, a common zoning designation in Old City which other developers have used to build mansions by right. This developer, Rock Construction and Development, is also building by right, providing a clear indication of the diversity of possibilities under this zoning designation. In order to build by right, the developers opted to create both a rear yard and a side yard, so the eastern side of the building will have a ton of windows. This is surely how they’re able to fit so many units into the building.
Without question, this new building will represent a higher and better use than the building that was here before. We appreciate the height and density here, and feel like this building is closer to the type of building the code intends in the CMX-3 district, as opposed to high end homes. Still, it’s a little funny that CMX-3, which translates into Commercial Mixed-Use 3, doesn’t actually have a commercial requirement. In the case of this building, we’re not sure that retail would even be appropriate, but it seems like an oversight in the code that the City will eventually consider changing.