A landmark restored; Delray Beach developers revitalize run-down car dealership

A landmark restored; Delray Beach developers revitalize run-down car dealership

13:50 01 August in News Stories

By Marisa Gottesman, Sun Sentinel
5:43 pm, June 27, 2014

The historic site of downtown Delray Beach’s first Chevrolet car dealership is open for business again, but it isn’t selling cars.

After sitting vacant for decades, the historic building is now home to several businesses thanks to a 2013 revamping by local developer Caster Developers and local architect Rich Jones.

Delray residents Cary and Rick Caster knew the abandoned, boarded-up property at 290 Southeast Sixth Ave. would be a good place for their offices.

“There’s really nothing quite like it in Delray,” Rick Caster said. “The look and the life of the space are really unique.”

The building is now the headquarters of Cary Caster’s aromatherapy company 21 Drops, as well as Caster Developers, which is run by Rick Caster, and several other tenants.

All the work that went into restoring the 1949 Miami Modern-style structure appears to have paid off. Miami Modern, or MiMo, refers to a mid-century architectural style characterized by futuristic elements with a South Florida twist.

The renovated 7,000-square-foot building recently received a nod from the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation at the Annual Statewide Preservation Conference. The building won an Honorable Mention in the Adaptive Reuse Award category.

“This award brings attention to the importance and value for mid-century style architecture,” said Amy Alvarez, an historic planner for the City of Delray Beach.

To help with the cost of making over the building, the Casters received two grants from Delray’s Community Redevelopment Agency totaling $100,000.

Before transforming what used to be Delray’s hottest showroom for new cars into a new hub of modern offices, the developers took a step back in time.

The car dealership was built in the late 1940s by Sam Ogren, Sr., Delray’s first registered architect.

Delray’s archivist Dorothy Patterson said the streamlined style of the Chevrolet showroom wasn’t what Ogren was famous for, but it was what many of his clients in the 1940s wanted.

“He loved the Mediterranean Revival style, the most popular style at the time,” Patterson said of Ogren’s early work. “As it got to be in the ’40s, he started drawing buildings in the streamline style.”

At first glance Rick Caster said he knew the significance of the building, and wanted to maintain its look. He studied the renderings and was sensitive to the original design.

“We recreated the building as it stood 65 years ago,” he said.

The original roof is still overhead and the original character of the building remains, including its angled windows. The building did receive some modern upgrades, like air conditioning.

Rick Caster said one of the best parts of restoring the building is when long-time residents stop by to check out the changes.

“Anyone who looks at it from yesteryear recognizes it as a newer, improved building,” he said. “We have had people walk in the door say they bought their first car here.”

mgottesman@tribune.com, 561-243-6544 or Twitter @marisagottesman