The Banco Popular building, aka the Hellman building, aka the former home of the Community Redevelopment Agency is getting the adaptive reuse treatment, reports the Downtown News (digital version). Developer Allen Gross--the man behind the Blackstone lofts and the Los Altos apartments--is close to closing a sale on the 1903 beauty, with plans to turn it into 212 units (20 percent affordable) ranging from 481 to 1,576 square feet. Gross will need an exception to the adaptive reuse law that requires converted apartments average 750 square feet (Gross's units will average out to 610), but it shouldn't be a problem as the city is considering amending that rule anyway. Gross intends to keep the ornate exterior and the stained Tiffany glass in the marble lobby, and to restore the building's "original corridor arrangement, which loops around every floor." He's also working to get the building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. When given the green light by the city, renovations will take about 16 months (the CRA, which occupied the building from 1980 to 2010 complained the structure was in bad shape)--Gross will give the units hardwood floors and new appliances, and is eschewing exposed ceilings and concrete floors, going instead for a "soft-loft" aesthetic.
Back in the nineties, Old Bank District developer Tom Gilmore, working with the Hertz Group, was tasked with filling Banco Popular with office tenants. It was a tough sell since the neighborhood was devoid of people and amenities. He says the episode helped give him the idea to create the OBD, the massive adaptive reuse project that reinvigorated the Historic Core. Now the neighborhood has grown up around Banco, while the building, largely empty now that CRA has decamped, is one of the last empty properties in the area. Funny.
· Downtown News [Official Site]