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First Look: Lear Block

Brent Warren Brent Warren First Look: Lear BlockPhotos by Brent Warren
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The latest apartment project to open downtown features one- and two-bedroom units heavy on charm and historic details. The Lear Block – located at 288 E. Long St., but with a second entrance at 145 N. Sixth St. – is the result of an extensive renovation from local developer Don DeVere.

The oldest part of the L-shaped structure was built in 1910 to hold the Oscar Lear Automobile Company. Although the Long Street frontage of the building likely held a show room at one point, most of the square footage was dedicated to production – cars were made there, and could be moved from floor to floor via a huge freight elevator.

Eddie Rickenbacker was one of the company’s celebrity drivers, competing in endurance races meant to prove the durability of the cars produced there.

When the company went out of business, the facility was taken over by Buick. Additions to the building were completed at regular intervals, with the last one finished in 1927.

More recently, the building held the Faith Mission men’s and women’s shelters, before that organization consolidated its many services into a larger facility at 245 N. Grant Ave.

DeVere bought the building about two years ago and worked with Jonathan Barnes Architecture and Design to convert it into a 26-unit apartment building.

Some remnants of the building’s past include a rack system that was used in the car production process, as well as exposed columns and support joists made of different materials – wooden beams are visible in the oldest parts of the structure, while later additions featured steel.

“Fifteen years ago, I would’ve cleaned up and painted something like that,” said DeVere, pointing to a steel column during a recent tour of the property, “but now people really appreciate those details and want to see them in their original state.”

The project is about 20 percent leased so far, and DeVere is confident that the remaining units will be filled.

“The product type is totally unique,” he said, “especially for someone who appreciates this type of building, we really don’t have any competition”

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He added that the recent upswing in activity in the immediate vicinity has also been a huge asset; “we’ve got two coffee shops, Blockfort, the Grass Skirt, a Jimmy Johns, and the Hills, all right here.”

A first floor parking garage offers 31 parking spaces, which are available to tenants for an additional $100 a month. The rest of the first floor is occupied by Beyond Limits Training.

Pricing for one-bedroom units ranges from $1,285 to $1,685 a month, while two-bedrooms start at $1,985 and top out at $2,585.

For more information, see www.learblock.com

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