The Ninth National Bank and Industrial Title and Savings Trust Company buildings at the corner of Front & Norris are very handsome structures that reflect the kind of opulence that banks once projected with architecture in order to make customers feel good about the safety of their investments. If either building were still occupied by a financial institution today, we can’t imagine the condition of the buildings would inspire much consumer confidence (FDIC rules notwithstanding). Both buildings have been empty since at least the 1970s, and they look like it- and if you think the exteriors look bad, you should see what they look like on the inside.
We’ve covered this property previously, noting a plan from Women’s Community Revitalization Project to demolish the buildings and replace them with affordable housing rentals. But neighbors didn’t like the idea, wanting to preserve the buildings. The affordable housing proposal eventually fell by the wayside, with Onion Flats buying the property in 2015 with an eye toward redevelopment. At the end of 2016 though, we expressed some concerns about whether that would actually happen, pointing out that the property was listed for sale for $1.8M.
At the time, we didn’t think anyone would be willing to pay that price for this property, and it seems we were correct, as it’s still listed for sale over 450 days later. That could be an indication that the listing was something of a trial balloon, with the owners hoping someone else would overpay for the property and take on the hard work and the risk inherent in a project of this ilk. As it seems nobody is stepping forward, it appears Onion Flats is proceeding with a project. Last summer, they pulled a zoning permit for the vacant lot to the south which would allow them to build a 25-unit apartment building with ground-floor commercial and 4 parking spots. A couple weeks later, they picked up a zoning permit to convert the bank buildings into office space.
According to a reader the lives nearby, there’s been activity at the bank building over the last few weeks, and you can see a crew was doing some exterior work when we visited the other day. We only see one building permit to date, which covers some wall covering and brick pointing, perhaps an effort to improve protection from the elements. As the developers haven’t yet pulled any other permits, maybe the current construction activity won’t result in any additional work any time soon. Or who knows, maybe we’ll see something happen here next week. At this point, we’re just happy to see work being done that’s ostensibly preserving the integrity of the buildings. As for the next steps, we’ll keep our ears open and let you know if we hear any news.