It was way back in 2013 that we wondered about 943 Washington Ave., a clearly reused industrial property that was home to a discount furniture store. We did a little digging and learned that the property had been used by coal interests since the late 1800s, eventually owned by the William Bryant Coal Company and used in concert with a large coal yard across the street. As downtown coal became less of a thing into the middle of the 20th century, the property transitioned to an auto shop for a number of years. Sometime between 1954 and 2009, the furniture store took over the building, and perhaps someone remembers other businesses in the building in the interim?
While the old buildings provide some architectural diversity to the block and also connect to Washington Avenue’s industrial past, we’ve always considered the parcel to be underused. The property is just under 7,000 sqft in size and zoned for mixed-use, so the property could certainly accommodate more than a two-story building that’s solely commercial. This isn’t anything groundbreaking, and to anyone in or out of the development world, this is pretty obvious. Still, the owners of the property owned it for decades and seemingly weren’t in any hurry to sell or redevelop.
As is usually the case with this stuff, this was true until it wasn’t. Last year, the property sold to developers for $1.5M without ever going on the market. This past spring, the new owners put the property on the market for $3.25M, looking for a quick flip. Unfortunately for them, no buyers have emerged. Earlier this month, they pulled a by-right zoning permit to build a 3-story addition to the building, with plans for 24 units on floors 2-5 and a fresh food market on the first floor. This project would use the fresh-food bonus that we’ve covered before, affording it extra height and density in exchange for having a grocery store. You know, because getting fresh foods is so tough in this part of town, a block from the Italian Market.
Though we aren’t sure what the proposed building would look like exactly, we’re happy that the plan would reuse the existing building and maintain that connection to the history of Washington Avenue while adding density to the area. We also don’t know whether this zoning permit is an indication that the current owners will redevelop the property or whether they’re just spending a little money to get a permit to help in moving a sale forward. It’s worth noting, the property is still listed for sale, but we’re not sure that the project that’s proposed would necessarily work at that sale price. Still, we think that the owners will be able to find a buyer at some price higher than the one they paid just a year ago, so they’ll be ok.