For the past decade, Brandon and Henry La Fuente have watched the revitalization of their Midtown neighborhood from their prosthetics office at 1116 N Robinson Avenue.
Now it’s the La Fuentes who want to chip in on fixing up the area with plans to renovate a building they bought in November that is often referred to as “the mullet of Midtown.”
The old Merkel X-Ray building, 229 NW 9, unoccupied for the past 20 years other than being used for occasional storage, is a structure that bewilders many who notice its crumbling, 1960s south stucco facade or the north half, which appears to be the remnants of an early 20th century brick apartment house.
Brandon La Fuente, manager of La Fuente Prosthetics, said the purchase was prompted by the company’s success at developing an acrylic implant that can be used to mend bones and replace parts of the eye.
Occularist Henry La Fuente, who founded the firm in 1983, said the material is awaiting a patent approval and is in the review stage with the Food and Drug Administration.
Henry La Fuente said the material has already been successfully used in Honduras, where a patient awaiting a leg amputation underwent surgery for the implant instead. That patient, Henry La Fuente said, is once again walking.
An expansion of the business to accommodate manufacturing of the implants prompted the La Fuentes to buy the 84-year-old Merkel X-Ray building for $450,000. They’ve yet to learn how the old brick apartment building was merged into a 1960s office and warehouse building. But they’re eager to get the building off of neighbors’ lists of most blighted properties in Midtown.
“The building needs a lot of work. We’re in the process of designing and planning what we really want to do with it,” Brandon La Fuente said. “It’s going to house all of our manufacturing. We’ll be setting up a clean room and we’ll be doing all the fabrication of our implants there, cleaning them and packaging them. We’ll use the warehouse to handle our manufacturing and storage. We’ll put offices on the first floor of the residential side, and maybe do apartments on the upstairs.”