425 West Fountain Street is a nimble, lean, incremental response to the evolving demand for urban living, and exemplifies the importance of reuse of existing structures and urban infill. Reclaiming previously abandoned areas like this for small scale, local commerce—makers, independent retailers, creatives, health and wellness—is essential to recreating the diversity and depth of goods and services necessary to support walkable neighborhoods. By creating storefronts with large glazing and “front yards” available for tenant use, the new use of this property increases the eyes on the street, thus improving safety and fostering community in a formerly auto-oriented light industrial area. This brilliantly redeveloped property is now home to Cleverhood, City Aiki Martial Arts, Long Live Beerworks, The Slow Rhode, Devine City Cycle, and Downcity Design.
However, things weren’t always so pretty. The 1950’s building was originally used as a U-Haul location, but slowly devolved into a rundown auto body shop and junkyard, covered in car parts and spilled industrial compounds. In July 2005, The Armory Revival Company acquired the lot and the empty 8000 sq. ft. block building in hopes of developing a significant mixed use condominium. The financial crisis halted that dream, but after extensive environmental remediation of the site, the building was renovated lightly to accommodate an ambulance company. When that user moved out in 2013, Armory decided against re-renting to auto-related uses.
Well into a renovation of the 40,000 sq. ft. 381-393 West Fountain Street into lofts, offices, restaurants, and a large gym, everyone was eager to add more life into the immediate area. The decision was made to create six small storefronts, complete with large glass window cut-outs and a full-scale mural by Providence Painted Signs. This commercial development has generated a great deal of excitement on the West Side, reinforcing and solidifying work that has been done by so many people to bring back the larger neighborhood.