Cruising down 15th Street through Francisville the other day, we noticed some ongoing construction that didn’t fit a standard we’ve come to expect around here, or anywhere else in town, for that matter. The construction in question is taking place at 857 and 859 N. 15th St., two properties on the northeast corner of 15th & Ogden. The corner building has historically been used as a triplex, while the building next door was once a duplex, from what we can tell.
The property at 861 N. 15th St. has been a vacant lot for a number of years, ditto the next property to the north. These lots have been empty for so long that a mural was painted on the northern wall of 859 N. 15th St. back in 2005 and it has remained visible for the last decade and a half. Artist Cliff Eubanks created this mural, featuring an image of gospel group the Dixie Hummingbirds, paying tribute to a group that performed nearby in the 1960s at the Metropolitan Opera House. The mural also includes the building now known as the Met, along with a giant guitar.
We’ve gotta say, it’s a pretty sweet looking mural. Unfortunately, the mural is painted on a party wall that’s adjacent to a vacant lot, on a building that’s clearly seen better days. Even though the mural was rededicated in 2018, this feels like a mural living on borrowed time. Developers buying the building and its neighbor back in 2017 only reinforced the idea. The next year, said developers pulled a permit to tear down both buildings, combine with the vacant lot next door, and build a five-story building with industrial space on the first floor and fifteen units on the upper floors. You’d think, then, that the mural would be long gone by now.
But that didn’t happen at all! The plans for combining the three lots fell through. The developer pivoted on their project plan, and is instead working on a pair of duplexes at this location. Best of all, the duplexes will reuse the buildings at the site, preserving the mural on the northern building for now.
Sadly though, it seems this will all be for naught. Another developer owns 861 N. 15th St., and over the summer they pulled a building permit to construct a duplex of their own. So it appears that the mural will disappear after all, once that project breaks ground. It’s worth noting that the City owns the adjacent lot at 863 N. 15th St., so that lot could stay empty for years to come. Perhaps the artist could be convinced to reproduce their work about fifteen feet to the north? Frankly, it seems more likely that the City will sell off the property and we’ll see yet another duplex here instead.