A previous column here discussed conditions along the east section of Lexington Avenue, proposing the demolition of a couple of buildings there in order to build back with structures more in keeping with the character of the neighborhood.
There is also a section of Lexington Avenue that lies between Main Street and Wall Alley that deserves a conversation.
It is great that the buildings on the south side of this stretch of the street are in pretty good condition and are being maintained and utilized for businesses. The opposite side of the street is another story altogether, with the abandoned former state employment office and the much older building at the corner, both of which degrade the appearance of the street and the neighboring buildings and businesses.
The corner building, originally a church and later a carriage shop, has long outlived its usefulness and has become derelict despite currently housing apartments. In the 1950s, it housed a dentist’s office and a chiropractor’s office on the first floor.
The employment office was constructed in 1955 and was out of character with the surroundings from its inception, totally disregarding the historical nature of nearby buildings. The handicap ramp was added in later years, perhaps in order to comply with the ADA code, but does not do so. Unfortunately, that accommodation could not occur inside the building, and the resultant ramp has forever been a hindrance to pedestrian traffic along the walk there.
Removal of these two buildings would free up approximately 7,000 square feet of ground area. Erecting a two-storey building or series of buildings there could provide significant space for additional street-level businesses and second-level apartments, such as exist directly across the street.
While it is understandable that there are still a substantial number of storefronts in the downtown area looking for tenants, those storefronts are gradually being filled with new enterprises, and this section of Lexington Avenue could eventually become a welcome addition to such businesses, stabilizing the neighborhood and providing facades more in keeping with the historical nature there.
And while this improvement is underway a very slight modification in the on-street parking situation there is in order.
The porch overhang and columns of the corner building are an impediment to drivers wishing to enter Lexington Avenue from Wall Alley. This situation is exacerbated by vehicles being allowed to park too close to the intersection at Wall Alley. This sometimes creates a dangerous situation when it becomes difficult to see traffic going west on Lexington Avenue. The simple solution is to delete a couple of parking spaces closest to the intersection, improving sightlines. When this is done, a slight sidewalk “bump-out” could be added there, similar to the one recently added across the street, and this would provide a modest improvement to pedestrian safety, a long-term issue at this location.
The Engine House Deli has become a well-recognized and well-attended anchor business in this area. It’s time to recognize the value of this business to the downtown and do something to enhance it and support it through a thoughtful re-development of a couple of buildings that have become a detriment to the area.