In response to the boom of large-scale development in the Pike/Pine corridor — and to try to preserve what’s left of the neighborhood’s oldest buildings — City Hall is rolling out proposals for increased demands on developers who want to take advantage of potentially lucrative zoning incentives.
The proposed changes from council members Tom Rasmussen and Sally Clark to the Pike/Pine Conservation Overlay District primarily address developers building on large lots that encompass multiple historic buildings.
The proposed changes, which have not seen any public signs of backlash from developers, should not affect projects already in the design phase like the eight-story Melrose and Pine development, one developer who declined to go on the record tells CHS.
The incentives, first approved in 2009, offer developers the right to build larger and higher in exchange for preserving facades and auto-row era characteristics. The district roughly covers the area from I-5 to 15th Ave. between Olive and Union.
Of the 15 projects in the Pike/Pine area permitted or currently being reviewed for permits since the incentives have been in place, eight are using the incentives. That will result in the preservation or partial preservation of 18 character structures. The Broadstone Capitol Hill project is incorporating three older structures, including parts of the Davis Hoffman building. The zoning tradeoffs are also being put to use at 600 E Pike in plans to redevelop the Phil Smart Mercedes dealership, which will result in the preservation of four character structures.
Under the new proposal (PDF) all historic structures would have to be partially retained when zoning incentives are used.
The catalyst for expanding conservation rules to all structures was the massive 250-unit, mixed-use project on E Union between 10th and 11th, which encompasses four historic buildings. Initial plans for the project used zoning incentives even though the developer, Alliance Realty Partners, was not planning or required to preserve every historic structure on the lot.
Another proposed change would attempt to rein in oversized buildings above historic structures. Under the district’s current rules developers can earn up to a 25% square footage increase for providing an arts space or affordable housing, and preserving a character structure.
The council’s staff report outlines the unforeseen problems:
This exemption was intended to incentivize retention of character structures. However, it actually encourages new buildings to become more bulky by extending out as much as possible above character structures, since the extended floor area doesn’t count towards the floor size limit.
Other changes are intended to streamline the incentive program for developers, including a provision that would remove some regulatory barriers. For instance, preserved structures would not require approval during design review; they would be treated as an existing building.
This change could be vitally important in the world of development as financing windows open and close and additional time in the review process could put projects at risk. For one example of the fragility of the development process, this massive E Pike project that would preserve and redevelop a former BMW dealership remains “on hold” after the project missed its financing window.
In a May email to CHS, Rasmussen said he was proposing the changes “to be more certain that we will succeed in our goal to retain character structures i.e. buildings that are at least 75 years old …”
A draft version of the rules went before public comment in May. A public comment session is slated for sometime in August on the current version. The proposed changes, which technically amend the city’s Land Use Code, will eventually go before the City Council for approval.
Accompanying the final proposed rules was DPD’s environmental impact report (PDF), which gave a green light to the changes.
“Conserving existing building resources and permitting new development that accommodates growth … are public benefits that enhance the quality of the neighborhood environment.” The report goes on to say that “Conserving existing structures should help reduce energy expenditures associated with the demolition and removal of existing buildings.”
The updates come after design plans were approved for the eight-story building at Melrose and Pine that benefited from generous incentives.
Hunter’s Capital developed the project. The preservation-minded development company has been closely involved with drafting conservation rules for Pike/Pine.
In a statement last month Hunter’s Michael Malone said that the recent uptick in development exposed loopholes in the district’s written rules. He said his company’s upcoming E Pike project above the CK Graphics/Dunn Motors building will be a showcase for conservation development in the neighborhood.