By Michael Hargrave:
Vince Kuntz's building has been looking tired.
476 Rhode Island is a three story brick edifice, remarkably similar to the Left Bank just one block away. The rust colored brick walls stand straight and tall, a testament to their builders. The facade is beginning to show its age though, the soft sandstone having been worn down by time and weather. The faded remnants of an old Gold Medal painted sign still adorn the eastern wall. Painted over the bottom section of the mural is some graffiti, a reminder of what this West Side neighborhood has been through. Inside, the first floor wears neglect like massive scars. The ceiling is drooping, and a large section of the floor has been removed. But, just like the West Side, this old brick building is finding new life again.
Getting all the way up to the third floor requires a ladder, but it's worth it. A beautiful new roof covers the massive 1800 square foot space. Because the third floor only needs to support the room, no support pillars are needed. What Kuntz says was once was a social hall will soon become an enormous, open loft apartment. Up on the third floor, it's easy to see the potential that Kuntz and his partners saw from the beginning.
The third floor (above) will be left unbroken by walls. An enclosed bathroom will be installed, but that's all Kuntz wants to do to add to the space - true loft-style living. A fresh ceiling will cover the new roof, but Kuntz doesn't like the idea of a flat ceiling, he feels that something like a drop ceiling wouldn't do the nearly 12 foot tall space justice. "The present plan is a finished ceiling, but with coffered bays,"said Kuntz. "A ceiling that's just flush on the bottom would be boring, it makes the space seem long and low."
Back on the second floor, the plans are to have a pair of smaller apartments, complete with individual kitchens and bathrooms. Throughout the building, bits and pieces of older detail are being polished and kept as they are. Kuntz is attempting to preserve the original look and feel of the building while adding the modern amenities that high end apartments need, such as garages for the tenants.
Kuntz, who has partnered with a few other local investors, is looking to turn this brick building into a multi-use property, with living space on the upper floors and a retail space on the first floor. Despite the first floor's condition, Kuntz says he and his partners plan to have people set up in the building very soon.
"The goal is to have the apartments occupied this summer," said Kuntz.
Rent for the apartments will reflect Kuntz's upscale aspirations for the building. "Rent is going to range around twelve dollars per square foot," said Kuntz. "Which is comparable to any of the downtown lofts." At that price point, the third floor will most likely cost around $2000 per month.
As of this time, the plans for the first floor (photo above) are still open. Not just what sort of business will most likely occupy the space, but exactly how the issue with the floor is going to be dealt with. Whatever the case may be in the future, Kuntz is adamant that the first floor will be commercial space, not residential.
The transformation of this West Side neighborhood is still under way. Homefront is working on houses just half a block away from Kuntz's building, and although some nearby houses stand in vacant disrepair progress can be seen everywhere. Both of the houses next to 476 Rhode Island are beautifully rebuilt, and the house next to Prime 490 managed to sell at its open house.
With the addition of some upscale apartments and fresh commercial space, this portion of Rhode Island, flanked by Five Points Bakery, Urban Roots, Left Bank, Prime 490 and Essex Street Pub will really start looking like a healthy business corridor. To top it all off, Kuntz would like to return the Gold Medal sign on the side of his building to its former glory. Very fitting.