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New Office Building Planned for Vacant Lot on Parsons Avenue

Brent Warren Brent Warren New Office Building Planned for Vacant Lot on Parsons AvenueRenderings via WSA Studio/Foreground Studio.
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A new building planned for a vacant lot on Parsons Avenue will bring about 2,000 square feet of office space to a part of the corridor that has not seen much investment in recent years.

Located at 1636-42 Parsons Ave., the building will sit about half a mile north of the John Maloney Health Center (and the adjacent Parsons Place and Parsons Village projects), and about a mile and a half south of the new East Public development.

The project is being developed by Noah Mabry and Singleton Hicks of Foreground Studio, a landscape design firm that will occupy a little less than half of the new building.

“We’re ahead of the development curve, but hopefully this will spur others…clearly Parsons has the right kind of bones for an urban neighborhood,” said Mabry, adding that they hope to see the corridor continue to develop with small-scale projects like theirs.

“This building will be a catalyst for Parsons further south,” said Hicks, “But instead of a wave, we hope to see a development here, a development there…that’s an easier way for Parsons to grow.”

The project itself has had quite an evolution. Mabry and Hicks started thinking about the need for office space about two years ago, seeing growth on the horizon for their business and a desire to eventually make the jump from working out of their homes and coffee shops.

They eliminated renting as an option fairly quickly.

“We didn’t want to rent a regular office space, that just wasn’t appealing to us,” said Hicks.

“If we rented, we would’ve spent so much trying to make it what we wanted, it wouldn’t make sense,” added Mabry.

The first idea was to buy a small house and convert it into an office, but while browsing the Land Bank website they stumbled upon the lot on Parsons, which seemed like a great place for a new-build project.

Thoughts then turned to an inexpensive building material that they had been hearing a lot about — shipping containers. That idea also turned out to be a dead-end, though, due to requirements from the city that would have raised costs.

That’s when the duo turned to Amanda Dunfield of WSA Studio, who worked with them to design a building that could accommodate their business as well as a second office or retail client.

“We wanted to call out Vassor Village’s industrial history, but not be too modern,” said Hicks. “We wanted it to fit in with neighborhood, while on the inside it could be a little more modern and edgy.”

A network of friends and new south side acquaintances has helped the pair navigate the development process. The Parsons Avenue Redevelopment Corporation (PARC) provided technical and financing assistance, while Bob Leighty, of the Parsons Avenue Merchants Association (PAMA), connected Mabry and Hicks with Jeff May, the developer of the Arbor Apartments near the corner of Parsons and Livingston.

May provided advice and also eventually brought them in on the Arbor development; Foreground designed the complex’s large outdoor courtyard space.

The current timeline for the office project calls for a groundbreaking next spring and completion by late 2019 or early 2020.

Related: Fast Forward: The Parsons Avenue Corridor

The site of the proposed building, photo by Brent Warren.

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