As reported in the August 9, 2023 edition of The Altoona Mirror
Renovation work has begun on a major downtown building.
The additional housing fills a demand and will add to patronage for downtown businesses, especially after hours, according to McKnight. “More feet on the street,” he said, “pretty exciting.”
Scheduled to finish near the end of 2024, the project will turn the former Kress Five and Dime on 11th Avenue into commercial space on the ground floor and eight market-rate apartments “with high-end finish” on the upper story, according to Steve McKnight, CEO of Altoona Blair County Development Corp.
The start of the project means that all buildings on the 1400 block of the avenue are either occupied or have projects underway.
Formerly owned by the Curry companies, which developed the former Vipond building across the avenue, the Kress building is now owned by a local partnership without a Curry component, McKnight said.
The group isn’t ready to “go completely public with the overall scope” of the work, McKnight said.
Workers are currently opening the structure almost “wall-to-wall” to prepare for a build out, McKnight said.
The plan is for single commercial tenancy on the ground floor, according to McKnight.
The building is steel-framed, with brick casing — “very stable,” said local historian Michael Farrow.
It was constructed for $40,000 by S.H. Kress & Co. in 1922, according to newspaper articles provided by Farrow.
It had art deco elements — and was a precursor to that architectural style coming into full flower later in that decade, Farrow said.
The building underwent a major renovation for $220,000 in 1952, according to an article provided by Farrow.
Kress was started by Allentown-area native Samuel H. Kress, (1863-1955), according to kressfoundation.org.
His company developed 221 stores in 28 states, including 50-plus art deco structures constructed between 1929 and 1944, designed by the firm’s chief architect, Edward Sibbert, according to the website.
Sibbert’s “masterpiece” was the company’s seven-story marble flagship store at Fifth Avenue and 39th Street in New York City, which opened in 1935, according to the website.
Kress was an art collector and one of the major donors whose gifts helped launch the National Gallery of Art, according to online sources.