Next door to the East Fifth Condos at Fifth and Tillery Streets in the Govalle-Johnston Terrace neighborhood, there sits a well-kept little blue house on a single-family lot — and if the owners of two small woman-owned local businesses get their way, it will soon be replaced with six two-story townhomes.
The concept for these new townhomes could not be a more stark contrast from the recently-completed East Fifth Condos, which with their simple lines and two-tone boxy look all but scream “modern urban.” In terms of style, the East Fifth Condos are closer to The Guthrie, a larger contemporary multifamily project underway just a few blocks down at Tillery and Gonzales Streets.
Instead, the townhome project at 507 Tillery Street looks like a throwback to architectural styles of the 1920s. At least that’s how the structures appear in the sketchy watercolor illustrations submitted to the city:
Ross Frie, president and CEO of Frie Planning, Development & Construction LLC (FriePDC), submitted a project narrative to the city describing the townhomes as “traditional architectural style homes to blend into the existing surrounding traditional Govalle-Johnston Terrace neighborhood.”
The landowner working with FriePDC is Caren Wendt, a small businesswoman who operates a janitorial service and dabbles in real estate. She bought the house in 2016 as an investment.
This may get a little convoluted, but Ross Frie is carrying out this project with Kelly Rush-Frie, the vice president and COO in his company who also happens to be president and CEO of Rize Planning, Development & Construction (RizePDC), the firm that prepared the development’s conceptual illustrations and site plan.
Looking at the lot from Tillery Street — the frontage is just 60 feet wide — it appears to be an unlikely place to fit six two-story townhomes, but city staff at Development Services appear to be in support:
“The Govalle-Johnston Terrace Neighborhood plan supports a diverse range of housing options for all stages of life. Staff believes the applicant’s proposed development supports this goal and fits the scale of the area,” the department’s report states. It does help, however, that the lot is 200 feet deep and has an area of just under a third of an acre.
“It’s a deep lot,” said Ross Frie in a neighborhood meeting, according to city records. “There is multifamily development directly to the south … but we want to do something different, something that blends into the neighborhood.”
The house on site that will have to be removed was built in the 1940s, and is similar in age and style to the others that still stand in the 500 block of Tillery Street.
Once constructed, Frie intends to sell the units, which he refers to as “cottages.” He has told neighbors he would probably price them at around $320,000. When it was suggested that seemed low for the area, he said, “We will see what the market will bear.”
Each townhome is proposed to be two stories tall, with a total living area of 1,650 square feet (1,000 square feet downstairs and 650 square feet upstairs). There will be a single driveway entrance with spur cut-offs to each residence, and each will have a two-car garage. These are all three-bedroom homes with two or three baths, a home gym, spacious central family rooms and open concept kitchens. There’s even an outdoor space reserved for a dog walk and pet wash area.
Once the zoning change to multifamily is approved, Frie has estimated construction could start in 12 to 18 months. But this case has been in front of the Planning Commission since December — it was postponed again earlier this week and is scheduled to come back on August 9.