A reader reached out to us recently, wondering about some ongoing construction activity on Umbria Street, a couple blocks past the end of Main Street (or is it the start of Main Street? Who knows). The property in question is 4649 Umbria St., which to the naked eye simply looks like a quadruple-wide property, but it secretly extends over 300 feet beyond its frontage on Umbria, touching the rear yards of maybe two dozen homes on Hermitage and Ripka Streets. In all, the property covers about 20K sqft.
It’s no wonder that the property caught the eye of developers. It’s zoned RM-1, which allows for multi-family use as a matter of right. In this zoning district, the number of units you can include in a building is directly tied to lot size. A 20K sqft property allows for a bunch of units, and that’s exactly what’s under construction right now. The developers have approval for a 30-unit building with 9 parking spots, though it appears they are increasing the proposed parking to 24 spots in the back of the property.
Though the project is occurring as a matter of right, it definitely elicited some controversy before it got underway. Until last year, a double-wide apartment building stood here which looked to be in rather poor condition. The stucco had fallen off in a few places on the front and a chunk of the cornice was missing. Much to our surprise, we learned that the building had some incredible history to it, with a section dating back to before 1770. Over the course of the 1800s, members of three prominent families occupied the home, including Levering’s and Smick’s. Those families were important enough to have streets named after them. Daniel Arbuckle, a prominent industrialist, also lived in the property in the second half of the 19th century.
Last June, the Historical Commission’s Committee on Historic Designation recommended that the property be added to the Historic Register. The developer, however, filed for demolition last April, in advance of any notification being issued around the property’s historic nomination. As a result, the Historical Commission decided against designation, since the demo permit had priority over the nomination, due to timing. We wonder whether things would have worked out in the same fashion had the pandemic not closed the Historical Commission office last March. Guess we’ll never know.
While we may never answer that question, we do know this: Marchiano’s Bakery makes a dynamite tomato pie. And whoever ends up moving to the new building at 4649 Umbria St. will probably enjoy said tomato pies on the regular, as it’s located just two doors down the block.