We dove deep into the history of 500 South St. a decade ago, describing its numerous iterations over the years. To summarize – a photo studio occupied the building around 1900, before a pivot to a fabric store and then a clothing store through the 1960s. If you remember South Street’s gritty era in the 70s and 80s, then you surely remember Grendel’s Lair, the theater and music venue that operated here from 1972 to 1987. Gap opened at this location in the late 80s, representing a commercialized era on South Street, hanging around through the early 2000s until being replaced by a T-Mobile store. That store closed its doors in 2019.

A look at the corner of 5th & South in 1930
Looking much different as Al Berman's clothing store in 1961
The view in 1978, when it was Grendel's Lair theater
Looking mostly the same, with a new window and a T-Mobile sign at our last visit in 2014

As the tenants marched in and out and the decades rolled along, the exterior of the building remained largely the same. But if you head to this corner today, the view is completely unrecognizable. Thanks to a brand-new design from SgRA, this three-story building has a wildly different feel than it did even a couple years ago. But if you were expecting something shiny and modern, you might be surprised.

500 South St. as it looks today

We can’t remember too many instances of an old building getting rehabbed into a different type of throwback design. While we really loved the space-age look of the building before, this update is A-OK in our book. If we didn’t know any better, we would have guessed that this was just a contemporary update to the three-story buildings that are literally everywhere in this neighborhood. Touches of black steel and large windows give a fresh look to the traditional red brick and windows of the upper portions of the building. As for the function, four units will take up the top two floors, with Vara Juice slated to take up the ground-level commercial spot on the corner. With zoning permits just issued for this, we hope to be able to snag a beverage here soon.

A look at the 5th St. facade and neighbors (Hi, Nocturnal!)
A very springtime view along South St.
A closer look at the corner commercial entrance, soon to be a juice bar
A look at the finishes of the residential units

We could dwell on how this renovation resulted in the elimination of a rather interesting and unique facade, or we could celebrate that we now have an actively utilized building that looks darn good. Hmmm, let’s think: we’ll pick door number two in this instance. While we are indeed a touch wistful seeing the old facade go, it honestly wasn’t the best example of the style we’ve ever seen. Also, it prevented any active uses on the upper floors. And perhaps it posed as a barrier to finding a retail tenant, so we’re glad that it looks like they’ll be a new business on the corner, as this intersection was on the struggle bus just a few years back. But lo, how times change.

A pair of businesses on the north side of the corner

After being empty not long ago, 2nd Street clothing and Spread Bagelry are now keeping things active at what was once the heart of a bustling neighborhood. And while we would never say that Bella Vista/Queen Village aren’t bustling, we can’t help but continue to imagine a future where the entire east side of South Street is packed with businesses and people as it once was. Hopefully, more businesses and residents keep coming in to fill one of the coolest areas of the city.