You can call Save Madison Valley a bunch of NIMBYs if you like but the result of the community group’s pushback on the planned development to create a 75-unit, mixed-use PCC grocery and apartment building on the site where City People’s stands today will be a four-story, vine-covered, terraced building that includes community space and integrates and preserves much of the surrounding tree canopy. Or, at least, that’s the plan that will be presented Wednesday night by developer Velmeir and the architects at Meng Strazzara as the project takes the stage for its second try at passing through the city’s “early design guidance” phase of review.
UPDATE 10/26/2016 9:01 PM: Madison Valley isn’t saved just yet. The design review board Wednesday night threw down a challenge to the project developers that could call for some radical revisions to the plans for the large parking lot walls facing the residential neighbors along Dewey Place on the backside of the building. After a more than two hour session, the board agreed Wednesday to ask Velmeir to return for a third early design review to solve the problems around the building’s massing and relation to the single-family homes below. The decision is a blow to the project’s timeline with City People’s already planned for an end of the year closure. One possible solution to the major design challenge? Cut down on the 150+ car lot levels below the planned mixed-use building and integrate apartments along the building’s backside. We’ll have more on the meeting soon.
Original report: The developers say one key change will be increasing the amount at which levels of the building are pushed back from the parcel’s edges:
The increased setback allows for a response similar to a rear yard residential setback. Within the increased setback layered landscaping helps create natural beauty along the street. To provide visual interest throughout the year, a continuous green screen wall is located from the base to the top of the retail space.
“A mixture of ivy and native vines,” the presentation document for Wednesday night’s meeting continues, “will enhance the landscaping and serve to elegantly screen the building and eliminates the blank wall condition.” Sounds nice. And, according to the numbers, the developer didn’t have to cut a single apartment unit, grocery store square foot, and even can keep most of its plans for more than 150 parking stalls.
In July, the project being planned with some 26,600 square feet of E Madison facing grocery retail space faced a wall of opposition from neighbors concerned about the building’s mass and connection to nearby single family home-filled streets, the loss of trees and greenery, impact on the area’s pedestrian safety, and a two-story blank wall of concrete that would face homes down slope from its 156-stall parking garage levels. The city’s notes from the July session summarize the various feedback received on the project thusly:
In kicking back the project for another round of early review, the East Design Review Board asked for a major overhaul of the concept. “The Board acknowledged the public’s concern with the height, bulk and scale of the proposal and agreed that the massing needed to further transition along Dewey and the single family zone,” the reviewers weighed in.
Velmier and its architects believe the new tiered concept should do the trick. “In the revisions to the Preferred Design Option, the setbacks have increased to 15’ for the majority of the residential frontage allowing for lush, layered landscaping on site,” the proposal reads.
The “generous” setbacks will also allow the development to include an E Madison-fronting “community space that connects with the interior spaces” of the project where “goods and produce can be brought outside when weather permit” and “outdoor dining opportunities exist for both the neighborhood natural foods market and the small corner retail.”
Still, there will be squabbles to settle. The developer’s arborist report maintained that none of the trees destined to be lost to the project are worthy of saving. Save Madison Valley disagreed in July tallying 39 mature trees, more than 20 native plant species, and more than 14,600 square feet of tree canopy that the group said would be lost to the project.
The board will also have to decide if “quality woodgrain metal siding” added to “distinct portions of the residential facade” along with the “native vines” will be enough to soften the blank walls that caused so much Madison Valley consternation in summer.