We can only imagine what South Kensington looked like when Gratz Fire Protection Services started their business at 241 W. Oxford St. in the last 1970s or the early 1980s. It must have been pretty rough. We suspect the neighborhood was mired in a state of decline back in those days, as industry was continuing its retreat from the city and residents were fleeing in droves. Surely this resulted in numerous vacant and blighted buildings of various sizes and shapes. Property values were quite low back then, so anyone looking for space to stretch out had plenty of options. We don’t know whether the owners of this company got a good deal or a bad deal, paying $40K for their 8K sqft property back in 1977, but we can say with a high level of confidence that the property has appreciated quite a bit in the time since then.
We believe Gratz ceased operations a few years back, and the photos above at least show that if they’re still in business, they’re operating out of another location. The photos also show that the site is posted with zoning notices, indicating that developers have the property under agreement, and redevelopment is on the horizon. These developers are looking to build a mix of town homes and duplexes with parking, which will eventually result in a total of 26 units (assuming approval from the ZBA). We don’t know what the site plan looks like, but have to think that some of the units will front Oxford Street while others will run north, up Bodine.
A fire protection business and a warehouse probably represented an upgrade in the neighborhood forty years ago, but neither are consistent with current trends. Speaking of trends in the neighborhood, at first glance we’re perhaps a little surprised that the developers are looking at homes and duplexes rather than an apartment building. It’s not apples to apples because they’re not market rate, but the Tajdeed Residences are just across the street, and went up just a couple years back.
Now that we think about it, South Kensington has all different types of development happening now or planned for the near future. There’s large rental apartment projects like Liberty Square, Soko Lofts, and the Umbrella Building, and also condo projects like Kensington Yards on 5th Street or the 46-unit project at 6th & Montgomery. But we’re also seeing town homes pop up across the neighborhood, not to mention industrial and mixed-use development along North American Street. So maybe the lesson is to be ready for anything in South Kensington, and that the only safe assumption is that change is probably coming soon for every large, underused parcel in the neighborhood.