After 96 years, the former Deluxe Laundry and Dry Cleaners building at 2220 Oak Street may have to start a new business washing white robes for the angels. Acting on an anonymous complaint to 630-CITY about the building’s state, on February 15 the city’s Municipal Code Compliance Division performed an inspection and condemned the building, a process that declares it unsafe for use and subject to demolition.
The 1923 building is part of a small commercial strip originally developed for streetcar passengers. Deluxe Cleaners operated there for decades until 2006, when owner Anthony Saleeba sold the business. The strip sat empty until 2012, when Saleeba remodeled one of the buildings for Snap Fitness. The Deluxe Laundry and adjacent De Luxe Launderette spaces remain vacant.
In 2015, local entrepreneurs Ted Stein and JC Demetree announced plans to restore and remodel the Deluxe Cleaners buildings for a restaurant called the Roost. Their plans called for a 150-seat restaurant occupying space in both buildings plus a new outdoor patio. The Roost would have a liquor license, live music, and its own parking lot. As the building’s existing zoning doesn’t allow restaurant use, Stein and Demetree lobbied to get it rezoned as a planned unit development (PUD). The change was staunchly opposed by Riverside Avondale Preservation (RAP) and a group of neighbors, who formed the organization Positive Riverside Optimized Urban Development, or PROUD. Opponents felt such a large restaurant was too intense for the street and would cause parking and noise issues.
Roost also had supporters, and in 2016, City Council approved the PUD rezoning, with several concessions. PROUD appealed the decision, and the project has been tied up in the legal dispute ever since. Meanwhile, the vacant building continued to deteriorate, and was further damaged by Hurricane Irma in 2017. This situation led to the code complaint and subsequently to the condemnation on February 15.
Nancy Powell, RAP’s board chair, blamed the building’s condition on the property owner. “RAP is aware that the former Deluxe Cleaner building at 2216 Oak Street, Unit 3, has been found to be unsafe… The buildings next to Snap Fitness and Urban Juice have been vacant since Deluxe Cleaners was sold in 2006. With the severe impact of Hurricane Irma on this part of Oak Street, it is disappointing that there has been no attempt to repair previous long-deferred maintenance and Irma’s weather related damage like the roof and windows to keep the properties from falling into such a state of neglect. It is our understanding that the property owner now has 30 days to address the structural issues, so we hope that the property owner will take the appropriate steps to fix it, or sell it.”
Roost owner Ted Stein put the blame on the ongoing legal dispute that has tied up the business’s planned renovations. “After starting this project four years ago, we looked forward to breathing life into a rundown building,” said Stein. “It is sad that a lack of vision and leadership has delayed a project to the point where the building has become condemned. As someone who lives a few blocks from the Roost, it is unfortunate that RAP and a few neighbors feel they speak for the entire neighborhood, whereas the younger generation looks forward to building a progressive community with walkable options throughout Riverside.”
The condemnation notice appears only to affect the Deluxe Laundry building in the middle of the strip, and not the adjacent Snap Fitness or De Luxe Laundrette spaces. Condemnation doesn’t mean demolition is imminent, but rather that the building can’t be occupied until it’s brought up to code. It also means the owner will face rolling fines until the problems are fixed. However, given that the current proposal for renovation remains entangled in the legal dispute, condemnation does make the building’s future more precarious.
WIth the Roost in limbo, Stein and Demetree have brought their investments to other neighborhoods. In 2017, they opened the Local restaurant in the Miramar area south of San Marco. Located in another commercial building abutting a residential neighborhood, the Local offers a similar experience to what’s proposed for the Roost, with food, beer, and wine served inside and on an outdoor patio. This restaurant opened in fairly quick fashion, and public records suggest Stein and Demetree are pursuing expansion in other areas where they won’t face the same obstacles as in the Riverside-Avondale historic district.
The Local opened in 2017 at the corner of San Jose and Hendricks. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and features both indoor and outdoor seating that mixes in with adjacent residential properties. Images via The Local
This isn’t the only Riverside redevelopment project held up over conflict with neighbors and RAP recently. As The Jaxson reported earlier this month, a project by the owners of Grassroots Natural Market to renovate a commercial Forbes Street building into the Spirit Animal restaurant was delayed for months due to challenges by RAP and two neighbors. The owners agreed to various concessions and eventually came to an agreement with RAP, but not the two neighbors. City Council ultimately approved the neighbors’ appeal, denying the plan.
Article by Bill Delaney. Contact Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.