Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Fill This Front: Southside Cleaners & Shirt Laundry

1342 Lombard Street

                Ok, so I'm a little late on this one because there is some activity in motion for this storefront after nearly 8 years empty. Nonetheless, I shall still tell you all about it. This storefront has only ever had one occupant-- Southside Cleaners & Shirt Laundry. The reason for this, of course, is because despite how it looks, this building is only 29 years old! It was built in 1986!
               Its origins, however, go back to the end of 1981. Back then, some young bull named Bart Blatstein had acquired an empty lot/former car dealership that covered the entire corner of Broad and Lombard. The next year, he built the shitty drive-up retail building that now takes the corner, still standing today with a combined Smokers Express and Subway Restaurant-- something that belongs in a rest stop off the highway in the middle of nowhere, not at Broad and Lombard.
              Having had split the lot into two lots, Bart commissioned local architect Jerry K. Roller (nowadays JKR Partners) in 1985 to design a small retail/office building on the 20' x 52' lot behind his new place that would face out to Lombard Street. By 1986, it was done and Southside Cleaners & Shirt Laundry had arrived, staying in business for 21 straight years.

As seen in 2007 via the Google Streetview Time Machine.
                   The building was up for sale by 2009 and sat empty for years. This last September, the owners of the building got approved for a third floor addition that would add two apartments to the structure under the designs of local architect Yao Huang (aka YCH Architect). This must have become a big selling point for the place because it sold exactly one month later for $390k to the folks who own BJ Hardwood Flooring. This only leads me to assume that they are planning to open an outpost of their store in this location, but what the hell do I know? Maybe the owner is just graduated from the Restaurant School and will try his hand at a vegan spelt flour waffle cupcake restaurant.
                 A construction permit for the addition went in on January 22nd and judging from the pile of trash bags out front, the place is getting gutted now. Good! So how about this-- take the goddamn "Available" sign down! I'm excited to see yet another long empty storefront not only get filled, but completely upgraded. However, I'll be even more excited when its done and the new occupant comes along to FILL THIS FRONT!

The proposed addition by YCH

Monday, January 26, 2015

Butt-Fugly Building: Liberty View Apartments

2009-2051 South Street

            Its hard for me to walk down the 2000 block of South Street without puking and this is why. This shitty apartment building is a nearly block-long pile of putrescence that should have never been allowed to happen. See the length of this thing? That's how long it takes me to finish saying "FUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK" every time I see it.
          Its long as crap, short as shit, and is covered in garbage stucco. It has the worst street level presence of any apartment building in this whole goddamn city, and that's saying something. What's with the doors without knobs? The caged-over skylights? The ribbon windows along the first floor ceilings? The uneven roof height? The windows sticking out of the damn walls? The cheap slanted metal roof-cornice things? WHAT THE MOTHERFUCK IS UP WITH THIS PIECE OF SHIT!?!?!?

            Well, I'll tell you. This building was not originally constructed as one building. This was a set of rowhouses between 2009 and 2051 South Street combined into 61 apartment units.

The same buildings, 1964.
                In 1977, a General Partnership called Union Investment Company proposed this abomination and, after getting their ass kicked by the ZBA for about 2 years, finally got approved and started what would become one of the ugliest things to ever hit South Street. The architect was Edward Harrison Bernstein, who despite being in his 80's still practices out of the former fitting-up shop and cleaning shed of his family's old iron works. You know the building-- its the ivy-covered shit at the southeast corner of 23rd and Cherry Streets.
              I don't know exactly when it opened but it was completed by 1980. Ok, so I was just a fetus when this place was created, but how bad was this block of South Street back then that the building had to completely turn its back to the street? Places built in the same time period in the city's shittiest neighborhoods aren't even like this!
             Some new owners in the mid 80s proposed a one story addition on that back that would include a pool and health spa. The ZBA, probably embarrassed that they ever let this thing get built in the first place, denied and denied the idea over and over again until they gave up.
             Nowadays, this place is called "Liberty View Apartments" and is managed by PMC Property Group. Liberty View? You can't see the Statue of Liberty from this building! Do they mean the skyline views that that 3rd floor units have looking north? That's still not a "Liberty" view. For the longest time, I figured that this building was just showing its bad side to South Street and had its nice side on Rodman Street. Boy, was I wrong. On thin-ass Rodman Street, there's just a huge stuccoed wall running all along one side!

                  On the other side of the wall, some of the units have a small patio that faces out to some kind of cement-covered common area with bike racks and shit. What the fuck kind of "Liberty View" is that?

View from Liberty View Apartments outdoor space.
                According to info I've found online, the apartments inside range from $1390-$1740 per month, which is pretty cheap for the area. Some have fireplaces and balconies.
              Look, I understand that this end of South Street wasn't exactly a nice place until fairly recently, but there's no reason to ever build a nearly block-long building with no street engagement save a shitty glass entrance at 2031 South. Though it would be nice if this place was either destroyed or head-to-toe reconstructed, I'm pretty sure that's not gonna happen in my lifetime. So enjoy your shitty late 70s design, everybody. Its gonna be here for awhile.

They made up for the door by having five bays of brick wall next to it.