CHELSEA — A long-vacant block of Ninth Avenue that has been dark since its landlord kicked out the former tenants in 2012 is set to become the future site of a Wells Fargo bank, according to the developer.
The nearly block-long building on the east side of Ninth Avenue, between West 17th and West 18th streets, has been vacant for nearly two years, after landlord Stonehenge Management declined to renew the leases of a barber shop, deli, check cashier, bodega, and Chinese restaurant in 2012.
Now it's a hive of activity, with construction going on inside and "coming soon" signs for Wells Fargo posted in the windows.
Some of the block's former businesses relocated locally, including New Barber Shop, which found a small basement space around the corner. But others were driven out of the neighborhood completely, to the chagrin of some locals who said all affordable services are being priced out of the neighborhood.
"It was clear that no independent businesses could afford the rents there," said Ramon Esteban, 44, who lives nearby and used to do his dry cleaning at Velazques & Tamara Dry Cleaners in the building until it closed.
Still, Esteban said, he was relieved the space would finally be filled.
"I'm glad it's not empty anymore, at least."
A total of 5,400 square feet still remains vacant in the building, split up into two storefronts, according to Stonehenge. All uses are being considered for the space, according to Stonehenge's website.
Miguel Acevedo, who heads up the tenants association at the nearby Fulton Houses, has mixed feelings about the bank moving in.
"Before, when you had a check cashier or fast food restaurant, low income people wouldn't benefit," he said. "Wells Fargo could benefit families coming out of Fulton, who could actually get savings accounts."
He said he wouldn't be surprised if other chains — like Duane Reade or Starbucks — open in the location next.
"They're the only ones who can afford it, but we want ... chains that can benefit people in the Fulton Houses," he said.
Wells Fargo did not respond to a request for comment.