Could We See Ninth National Bank Make a Comeback?

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.

Amazing old buildings

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.

Lot to the south
View on Hope Street

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.

  • James Goodwin

    We see this bank while riding on the El and we wonder when they will ever start work to renovate the old bank. Now, they say they are going to create offices inside the bank and how will they do this work? Do they have possible tenants willing to rent space?
    The old bank was better off being torn down but in a way to salvage as many artifacts as possible for use in future building projects. Those people have a councilwoman who cows ZBA into giving them what they want as far as preserving the old building which they do not owen

    • jimco

      It’s ridiculous to chastise a developer to not pursue historic preservation (on a historic property they bought 3 years ago) in light of current market forces in a neighborhood that’s changing so rapidly. If developers want to tear stuff down in south / east kensington, there’s a large local stock of vacant / nondescript warehouses and already vacant land where that can be done rather than eliminating a building (albeit in such rough condition) with such beautiful bones.

  • James Goodwin

    I wish the developer lots of luck in constructing a beautiful office inside the bank and I hope he will be able to do all within budget and without any unforeseen surprises. When he does that and when we see the pictures, then we will give him thumbs up! Having said that, risk is inherent in any rehab of an old building and you want to minimize your risk whenever you can. Good luck and bring out a beautiful building for all of us to enjoy from the El and when we enter the building!.

  • bem

    Beautiful building. I do hope they save it.