Good looks do not tell the whole story of the building at 1817 Church St.

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The attractive façade of the building at 1817 Church St. masks a “problematic” interior, according to City officials. The property lies just east of Dodge Avenue in an area targeted by the federal Community Development Block Grant program, whose funds are administered locally, and several groups have inspected the property with an eye to applying for funds to rehab it.

For several years residents have suggested the building should serve as a community center, and the City remains committed to the vision of having the property developed in a manner that would be “culturally relevant to the black/African-American community,” said Sarah Flax of the City’s Community Development Department.

The West End Master Plan calls for mixed retail and residential uses in that area, Ms. Flax said, and a cultural center would fit well with the plan.
The building was formerly used as an animal hospital, Ms. Flax said. “It is a 4,100-sqare-foot building. The ground floor is about 2,000 square feet and is cut up into several small rooms; the second floor about half that, and the third floor even smaller.”

Only one application was submitted in this cycle, said Ms. Flax, and on May 18 members of the Housing and Community Development Act Committee voted to reject that application and re-open the request for proposals to rehab the property. Community Development director Lehman Walker suggested that the request for proposals be rewritten with more expansive criteria that could attract more not-for-profits, and the committee agreed on that compromise.