CLAREMONT — A rustic, nameless Bronx auto body shop could transform into an affordable housing complex with a preschool in yet another sign of changes coming to the borough.
PWB Management, a real estate company based in the borough, hopes to turn the car repair shop at 1416 Franklin Ave. into a 47,000-square-foot building that would contain 38 affordable apartments and space for a pre-K program on the ground floor, according to Mark Bourbeau, a project manager at PWB.
Bourbeau described the space on Franklin Avenue as "underdeveloped land" that would be better suited for apartments than the auto body shop.
The site's two-story repair garage sits far back from Franklin Avenue, and its rickety staircase and cracked patio indicate its age.
However, the shop still attracts a loyal clientele for both repairs and conversation, with visitors on Nov. 10 praising its sentimental value and the skills of mechanic Eddie Caw.
Caw, who has worked at the garage for about two years, said he had been unaware that there were plans to replace the business with apartments.
He enjoys repairing vehicles at the company, which he said does not have a name, and would likely look for work at a different garage if his current one closes.
"Well, I've got to do what I've got to do if they do that," he said.
The garage currently services about five cars per week and has been operating since 1949, according to Caw.
A customer who was at the shop on Nov. 10 but declined to give his name said he was very upset about the shop closing down. He has been coming to the garage for about five or six years and described Caw as a trustworthy mechanic.
"He's the only mechanic I come to," he said. "He's my mechanic and my friend."
Although Bourbeau acknowledged that a completed building was still a few years away, he declined to put a more specific timeline or cost on the project at this point in its development.
"My ideal timeline would be tomorrow," he said, "but that’s not going to happen."
Residents would be able to apply for the affordable housing units through a lottery via the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.
The project will now go before Bronx Community Board 3 to request a letter of approval at the group's Nov. 17 economic development/land-use and housing committee meeting.
"We'll do what we have to do to get the community board behind us," he said.
Gloria Alston, chair of the community board, said she would like to find out more about the plan but expressed support for the idea so far.
"I’m all for replacing the auto shop with a preschool," she said. "We’ve got too many auto shops."