Belmont Olympus: Live over your hip store


ADDRESS: 826 Hinton Avenue



ASKING: $850,000



SIZE: 1920's original section; 1958 expansion

LAND: 0.09 acres

CURB APPEAL: 7 out of 10

LISTED BY: Dan Tribastone of Summit Realty, 817-4040

This building offers a unique opportunity to have a combination home/office in the middle of the most happening section of Belmont, directly across the street from La Taza, just down from Mas, and across from a nascent jazz club.

According to the agent, the building is zoned for mixed use within a "neighborhood commercial corridor" and thus can house a single-family residence, multiple apartments, or a combination home and business.

It's currently used a furniture refinishing and retail store, and the business uses allowed by right could be summarized as "clean commercial"– an art gallery, convenience store, medical or professional office, dance studio, bakery or restaurant, or general retail.

An interested investor would do well to check city zoning regulations at the neighborhood development office (970-3182) for the final word on permitted uses and the various parking space regulations for each.

Several details add interest to the fa├žade. The unusual brick, detailed with handsome vertical striations– probably a by-product of the original molds– is in excellent shape. Large first-floor display windows flank the entrance while two symmetrical large arched windows interrupt the second-story brickwork.

Returning the commercial space (with no kitchen or shower) to residential will require some significant work. The first floor of the original two-story section of the house is essentially one large room (the current showroom). (A small central furnace provides heat.) The second story resembles living space, with five small rooms, a pint-sized half bath, and a large hallway/foyer at the top of the stairs.

The stairs next to the outside wall rise from a private street entrance, so the second floor could be used as living space separate from the commercial space below. However, a side door leads to the main first-floor space, so the two floors could also be used as one unit. A second-story porch atop the first-floor roof is usable, and a new owner could possibly add some more three-season space on top of the large flat roof that extends for another 50 feet (by 25 feet).

Adding a kitchen and full bath and enlarging one of the bedrooms into a master will require some creativity and moving some walls, but all the interior walls look to be non-load-bearing, so reconfiguring them should be relatively easy.

The real assets of the original section of the house are heart pine floors, the open-shell construction– easily reconfigurable with partition walls– and an elegant pressed tin ceiling. The floors have been refinished upstairs, and the ones downstairs might clean up just as nicely. Sections of the pressed tin are in tough shape. They provide an opportunity to remove the whole ceiling, run plumbing and electrical for a new kitchen, improved bathroom, and heat– and then reinstall the best panels.

The essentially one-room first floor is ripe for a thorough remodel and reconfiguration. The large one-story rear addition (70' x 25') is the most perfunctory construction possible: poured concrete floor, bare cinderblock walls, a flat tar and gravel roof supported by a steel beam running the length of the space and supported every 15 feet by a bare steel post.

Throughout the first floor, piecemeal modifications have served changing business needs over the years: random wiring strung helter-skelter, plumbing for fixtures now missing or unused, and jerry-built dividing walls. This provides an opportunity for a buyer who wants to rip things out and start anew, as tearing out any or all of this hodgepodge should feel satisfying.

Three industrial steel windows breaking up each long wall could provide great cross ventilation. A garage door provides access to the rear space that's well suited for storage, workshop, or garage without major changes. More refined uses, such as living space or even a commercial kitchen, would require major work and expense. The more modifications back here, the less cost-effective the entire building becomes, since this addition constitutes half the total space.

One concern is how long the strong smell of the furniture finishing and staining chemicals will persist. After so many years, the unpleasant fumes permeate the building.

Any buyer (except another furniture refinisher) will need to be creative. Many of the wide-ranging potential uses will entail daunting construction challenges. But someone who can make good use of the rough-and-tumble back half of the building could find the place a good value.

The phenomenal Belmont boom makes this a prime business location, and a clever buyer can watch it all happen from a bedroom on the second floor.