About a year and a half ago, we drew your gaze to the 1700 block of Cambridge Street. On this block, and also on the 1700 block of Ridge, developers built about two dozen twin homes about twenty years ago, at a time that virtually no other construction was happening in Francisville. Things are quite different today, as Francisville has been one of the hottest neighborhoods in town over the last decade, with development cropping up just about everywhere. We should mention, these homes sit on relatively large lots and also have a driveway that runs behind them, so they offer tremendous redevelopment potential despite the fact that the homes were built so recently.

When we were here last, two homes had been demoed on Cambridge Street, with plans for two small apartment buildings to replace them. Since then, an 8-family building (an octa-plex?) and a 5-unit building have both been completed. Both of these properties are zoned for single-family use, so both projects sought and received variances from the ZBA.

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Eight-unit building on Cambridge
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Five units at 1716 Cambridge St.

As we said, there are also homes on Ridge Avenue that are part of this 20-year-old development, but these homes have a different zoning designation, perhaps thanks to their location on a major commercial corridor. With the homes with the less favorable zoning turning over, it should come as no surprise that the homes with more favorable zoning would appeal even more to developers. And so, in the most predictable outcome ever, allow us to share news of a somewhat recent demolition on the 1700 block of Ridge.

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In the past
Current view

At the end of last year, developers purchased two homes, 1721 and 1723 Ridge Ave., paying $375K for each. They moved to quickly tear down the homes, but at this point we don’t see any permits for what they’re planning to building in their place. The combined property covers almost 4,000 sqft, and could accommodate a mixed-use building with retail on the first floor and 14 apartments as a matter of right. With some bonuses, that unit count could go up, but we don’t think it’ll go much higher, given the limited space. Even so, another 14 units would be a great step up for these properties, since single-family homes don’t really represent the highest and best use for Ridge Avenue. The retail component is also key here, as we wait for this corridor to reach a critical mass of density to make it financially worthwhile for businesses to return in force. There’s certainly no shortage of available new construction retail space, which will hopefully start to fill up in earnest once things start to return to normal in the world.