The northwest corner of 17th & Federal has looked pretty rough for as long as we can remember. Since developers bought it in 2015, the building at 1701 Federal St. has been sitting vacant and blighted, with its ground floor retail space unoccupied and plywood in its 2nd floor windows. The building didn’t look so hot even before developers stepped in, with a windowless corner store occupying the commercial space, and some faded signage advertising cold cuts and sandwiches. The quadruple-wide nature of the building made its poor condition stand out even more prominently, unfortunately.

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In the past

Passing by the property the other day, we noticed something different. The building is mostly gone! At this point, just a small portion of the building’s facade remains, along with some unexpected structural steel.

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Current view

So… what’s happening here? We have to confess that we don’t know. At this point, we don’t see any permits pulled, so your guess is as good as ours in terms of what could be in store for this corner. We see that new developers bought the property last year, paying $850K, and that change in ownership is obviously spurring the current activity at the property. The parcel is zoned CMX-2, which would allow a low density mixed-use building by right, but we’re not sure that such a project would make so much sense here. Instead, we expect that the owners will go for a variance to build townhomes.

Separate but similar building to the north
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Newish homes at 17th & Annin

Not only did these developers buy 1701 Federal St., but they also picked up 1700 Annin St., directly to the north. That building is still standing, but there’s a demo permit, so figure it’ll be the next to go. Combined, the Federal Street property and the Annin Street property could accommodate six huge homes, with three on Federal and three on Annin and a drive-aisle between them. A more lucrative approach might be to orient seven homes fronting 17th Street. Either plan would require a variance from the ZBA which is no certainly, but the relatively recent townhome project right across the street could serve as a useful template for the developers.

So stay tuned- we have a feeling there will be more clarity at this address in the very near future. And even if it ends up taking a few years for a plan to come together here, figure a temporary vacant lot at this corner will still represent a considerable upgrade over the longtime status quo.