Mixed-use plan nixed for former drug store | News, Sports, Jobs



A partnership that in 2018 shared plans for a commercial-residential building at a former drug store site at 11th Avenue and 15th Street has decided to construct a commercial-only structure instead.

Pennsy Properties is submitting plans to the city for “white box” approval, although the partnership doesn’t want to start construction until a tenant has committed, principal Brian Irwin, whose partner is John Horell, said after a recent meeting of the Greater Altoona Economic Development Corp., an affiliate of the Altoona Blair County Development Corp.

The building will be smaller than the 12,000-square-foot one previously planned, with two or three floors and a 3,000-square-foot outline, according to Irwin.

The partnership couldn’t make the economics of the larger mixed-use building work, Irwin said.

There have been several tenant leads. A promising one is scheduled to meet with the partnership early this month, Irwin said.

Pennsy Properties, which restored the former F.A. Winter & Son Music Store, home to Railroad City Brewing Co., plans to build a parking lot on the property this summer for the building and the one next door, which is owned by Pennsy.

It houses the district of­fice of the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board and Trade Secrets.

Pennsy is also now the owner of the former Russell Music building. It’s renovating the facade, Irwin said.

The partnership is looking for a tenant for when that 2,200-square-foot space is ready around Sept. 1, he said.

Curry resumes work

Curry Realty has resumed work on the former Vipond building on 11th Avenue after a 12-month-plus hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to company partner Mark Ritchey.

“We’re back on track,” he told the board.

The building should be ready for occupancy around Oct. 1, he said.

The $3.3 million renovation will turn the structure into the headquarters for Curry Supply, Curry Rail and Curry Designs and provide space for tenants.

One tenant is Saint Francis University, which will operate engineering and business programming.

“We’ve partnered with Saint Francis in a very heavy way,” Ritchey said.

With Penn State’s presence on 11th and 12th avenues, Altoona will soon have a “two-college downtown,” said GAEDC CEO Patrick Miller.

Aerotek Recruiting and Staffing is another tenant, plus an investment group, Ritchey said. There will be about 100 “professionals” in the building by the end of the year.

“I think it will be great for the city,” he said.

Meanwhile, Levity Brewing of Indiana recently began operating in the former Chalk Box building on 11th Avenue, which is owned by Curry.

Levity will be “fully open” by September, with a restaurant, Ritchey said.

“There was “a little issue with the brewing equipment,” he said.

The presence of Levity, Railroad City, JJ Hadley & Co. Brewers and Bill Sell’s Bold on the same block has brought bar hopping back to downtown for the first time since the Venetian Gardens closed many years past, according to Miller.

“It’s generating a lot of life,” he said.

“We’re getting to where we wanted to be 40 years ago,” he said.

Curry’s multiple developments reflect a strategy that recognizes that workers nowadays appreciate being able to go out to a restaurant at lunch and out for a drink after their day is done, Miller said.

The next type of downtown development that ought to follow is housing, Miller said.

“There are a lot of good things on the horizon.”

There’s no concern that multiple brew pubs on the same block will cannibalize one another’s business, because they’re complementary, rather than competitive, Miller said.

Their customers generally don’t go into one place to stay all evening, but rather go to several places, so they can sample one or more beers at each, he said.

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