Thursday, December 14, 2006

DeMarcay to Rise Up

After three meetings the city commission decided the developer of the proposed DeMarcay project would be given the added density requested under the city DROD.

This has been a particularly contentious process because of the on-going, construction caused business disruption to the merchants along Palm Ave. Dirt, dust, noise, much reduced parking, lane closures and full street closures have rightfully exasperated the merchants. The developer of the 1350 Main project has also complained about loss of views, shading of his pool and added traffic.

While the DeMarcay developers say they have much improved construction techniques that will do a much better job at minimizing disruptions, the merchants are not convinced. many of the merchants' livlihoods depend on having a pleasant, normal street.

Some of the more interesting comments made by the competing lawyers (lawyer for the DeMarcay proposal and lawyer for the 1350 Main building next to the DeMarcay):

From the 1350 Main point of view (they do not want views and shading from the new building):
  • This is not adaptive historic rehabilitation, it is "facade-ism" - commenting on the incorporation of the facades of the two historic buildings (DeMarcay and the Roth Cigar Factory) that occupy the property
  • This will result in the destruction of the Palm Ave neighborhood - the 1350 Main has a 4 story arcade over the sidewalk on Palm

From the DeMarcay point of view:

  • 1350 Main is a massive building, extending its base out to the curb (over the sidewalk) has increased its massiveness
  • 1350 Main took the light away from everyone
  • We are bringing "sophisticated growth" to downtown
  • Vast majority of people support the downtown code that was approved

Harvey Hoglund of the city planning staff noted that both historic buildings have interiors that are not worth saving (at least from an expense point of view). He noted that if the DROD is not given to the developers, a building of the same scale could be built under existing codes that may include commercial or hotel uses. Neither historic building would likely be saved as there is no real protection for these buildings.

In the end, three commissioners voted for the proposal and one against.

Commissioner Palmer indicated the proposal did not meet the requirements of the DROD (emphasizing the requirement for broadening the range of housing options - ie., prices). She also indicated the intensity, the density and the heights are simply too great for this area.

Commissioner Shelin said he was committed to new urbanism and reducing sprawl - this project does that. He said he has lived in 4 different large eastern cities and knows there are ways to save historic resources and allow development.

Commissioner Bilyeu said he loves the arcades at 1350 Main and the construction issues are the result of a learning experience - the city has not built arcades on Main before.

Commissioner Atkins said he saw no evidence why he should not support the proposal.

Commissioner Servian had previously recused herself from the hearing because she had bought a unit in the 1350 Main project when it first went on sale.

The SHT story on the DeMarcay decision article is here.

No comments: