Robert Rodriguez THE FRESNO BEE
Originally published 2005-03-06
A historical Tower District apartment complex that had fallen into disrepair is being brought back to life.
Work crews have been busy painting and repairing the 66-year-old Normandie Mar Apartments, recently purchased by local real estate company Frazier Realty & Investments. Designed by noted Los Angeles architect Edith Mortensen Northman, the Normandie Mar is one of a kind in Fresno.
The two-story apartment building at the southeast corner of Wishon and Home avenues has a steeply pitched roof, multipaned windows and plaster relief panels on the exterior.
San Joaquin Valley architectural historian John Edward Powell wrote that the building was crafted in a “West Los Angeles tradition of swank French Eclectic-inspired apartment buildings with wonderfully embellished chateauesque characteristics.”
In its prime — the 1940s and early 1950s — the apartment was considered one of the most fashionable in town.
“It was where the well-to-do lived,” said Bob Boro, landscape architect and lifelong resident of the neighborhood.
Boro and other area residents are thankful the building is being brought back to its original glory. In the apartment’s worst state, weeds cluttered the grounds and tattered window blinds dangled from inside one of the apartments.
“For a while, I thought the building was just going to die,” said Mallory Moad, a Tower District resident and former tenant of the Normandie Mar. “But now it looks like someone is finally giving this building the respect it deserves.”
During the mid-1980s, Moad lived in a spacious one-bedroom apartment on the Normandie’s first floor. She enjoyed good neighbors, great architecture and huge walk-in closets.
“It was so big, you could have used it as a project room,” she said of the closet.
The apartments are roomy with tall ceilings, crown molding and paneled doors.
Steve Hosey of Frazier Realty said he and business partner Terance Frazier have been interested in the property for several years. Both are former baseball standouts at California State University, Fresno.
“We normally will go in, fix properties up and resell them,” Hosey said. “But we are going to keep this one.”
The company paid about $500,000 for the property that will be leased out when renovation is complete in about a month. The building has 10 units of varying sizes from studios to two-bedroom, two-bath. Rent will range from $750 to $1,050.
Frazier Realty has been buying, repairing and reselling properties for more than a decade. It currently has about 55 properties in its inventory stretching from Madera to Kern County.
“We are glad people are interested in this project,” Hosey said.
Vintage buildings are desired by many, despite a growing number of apartment buildings north of Shaw Avenue, said real estate analyst Robin Kane.
“There is definitely a segment of the market out there of people who don’t want just white boxes,” Kane said. “They want stuff with a lot of character. Cities thrive on that kind of environment.”
Karana Hattersley-Drayton, Fresno’s Historic Preservation Project manager, said she, too, was pleased to see the historic property being renovated.
The building represents a part of Fresno’s history while also providing much-needed rental housing in one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, she said.
“The beauty of the Tower District is that it has mixed economic levels, from apartments and flats to some of the grandest homes in Fresno.”
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