We’ve covered 943 Washington Ave. a couple times in the past, wondering if and when this underused property might level up. Back in 2013, we discussed the history of the buildings at this site, sharing that they had been constructed by a coal company in the early 20th century before transitioning to an auto shop by the 1950s. As far back as we can remember though, these buildings were used for the sale of mattresses and other furniture, and looked pretty awful in the process.
About a year and a half ago, we rejoiced at the news that the buildings had been purchased in 2018 and that new developers were planning a project. Those developers had 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. The project plans benefited from the fresh-food zoning bonus, which allows extra height and density in exchange for having a grocery store. It’s funny that this zoning bonus would apply just a couple blocks from the Italian Market. It’s less funny and perhaps more depressing that this simple project would require a zoning variance without the bonus, and proves that the zoning on Washington Avenue needs to be fixed on both sides of Broad Street.
We last wrote about this property at the end of 2019, and you may recall, something rather significant cropped up a few months later in the form of a hundred year global pandemic. So it comes as no surprise that nothing happened at this site for quite some time, given that the brakes were pressed on countless projects thanks to Covid. But we’re pleased to share that something finally seems to be moving forward here, as the developers pulled a building permit in April and have started construction work. To be clear, it appears that demolition is all that’s happening thus far, but we would expect that actual construction will follow in the near future.
There’s perhaps a small bit of uncertainty to that expectation, due to the fact that the property is listed for sale for $4M. This listing dates all the way back to April of 2019, when the property was listed for $3.25M, and then the owners raised the price toward the end of 2020. We have a feeling that this is just a stale listing that should have been removed once construction started, but there’s always a chance that another developer could step into the deal, if the price is deemed acceptable and the sellers are still amenable.
Whoever ends up building the project on the northeast corner of this intersection, it will be a nice improvement over the status quo. That being said, this intersection continues to offer other opportunities, with a pair of huge properties on the northwest and southwest corners that are both being used for less than ideal purposes. The shopping center on the northwest corner is perhaps a bit underzoned at CMX-2.5 given its size and location, but it could still accommodate a 5-story building with retail on the ground floor as a matter of right. Considering that it’s been half vacant for years, we could certainly see a world in which it turns over and gets redeveloped.
The gas station on the southwest corner is a different story for a couple reasons. First, it’s zoned for auto-centric commercial use and any kind of mixed-use project would require a variance to move forward. Also, it was purchased just a couple years back by 7-11, so we don’t imagine this convenience store chain would be looking to build an apartment building here any time soon. More likely, we would expect to see the gas station stick around, the convenience store change over to a 7-11, and the existing 7-11 at 11th & Washington eventually getting redeveloped. That property would have an easier zoning path as well, for what it’s worth, though any changes here are surely not imminent.