The diagonal Point Breeze Avenue was once the commercial heart of the Point Breeze neighborhood, allowing residents to shop for most of their needs without straying too far from home. Like the rest of the neighborhood, the corridor fell on very tough times over the second half of the 20th century, as businesses moved away or closed forever and many buildings sat vacant and eventually crumbled as the years rolled along. Vacant buildings and lots remain a challenge for the corridor, but they’re also an opportunity as the surrounding neighborhood sees unprecedented development activity.
We visited the 1600 block of Point Breeze Avenue last summer, sharing news of four projects that were under construction- two little mixed-use buildings, a five-unit apartment building, and a duplex. As far as we can tell, one of those projects is now done (the duplex) and the other three are very close to the end of the road. Collectively, they will add thirteen units to the mix on Point Breeze Avenue, along with a pair of little commercial spaces that could convert to additional apartments if they don’t get rented by a business.
We revisit this block not to tell you about those four buildings, but to share news of another building yet to come. We previously noted that 1631-35 Point Breeze Ave. was listed for sale, and shared our suspicion that developers would buy the property, demo the blighted building on the site, and build something new. That’s exactly what’s happened, as developers bought the three properties and are now looking to demo the existing building and build a six-unit building. Given the other projects that have recently sprouted on the block, we reckon it’ll fit right in. And yet we see a missed opportunity that’s tied to the underlying zoning designation of the properties on the block.
The entire block is zoned RM-1, which allows multi-family construction but prohibits commercial use. This is not only the case on this block, but it’s true on the three blocks between Tasker and Moore. This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to us, since the commercial zoning comes back south of Moore and also because PB Ave. is supposed to serve as a commercial corridor, not an extension of the residential neighborhood. This suboptimal zoning designation is all the more aggravating when you recall that there’s a huge vacant lot on the 1600 block, the former Point Breeze Pop-up. This parcel could support a large mixed-use building with a game changing retail space on the first floor, but it will instead have no retail when it eventually gets developed, unless the owners want to go before the ZBA. Since a ZBA trip entails extra time and extra risk for a project, we don’t imagine that will happen. So look for another apartment building here at some point, and a missed opportunity for a substantial addition to an improving corridor.