A second attempt at a design for the development which will rise from Broadway’s Bonney-Watson funeral home seemed to impress members of the Pike Pine Urban Neighborhood Council last week. The design review board will consider the new plan this week.
Project architects from the firm Weber Thompson presented a plan at PPUNC’s January meeting last Tuesday night and showed off a different take on the market-rate apartment buildings set to rise where the funeral home and its parking lot stand today. The architects had come before the council in October 2017, and then before the East Design Review Board in November but the board wasn’t entirely happy with what they saw and sent it back for more work on the project’s connections to nearby Cal Anderson Park.
The project will encompass what is now the funeral home and the parking lot just north of it, on both sides of Howell Street. The two six-story buildings will contain ground floor retail and 214 apartments plus underground parking for around 140 vehicles. The review board had criticized the design for being too focused on Broadway, and not giving enough consideration to the Nagle Place side of the property, and also for not working well with adjacent Cal Anderson Park. The developers say the plan is for the project to have cohesion across the two buildings:
Although development will occur on two separate parcels, the buildings will be designed to create one cohesive resident community with shared management, ample resident amenities and outdoor space. Design will incorporate opportunities for maximizing light and views to the apartment homes, creating overlooks and encouraging people-watching. The buildings will work together toward a shared design concept with similar massing, materials and detailing in support of creating a vibrant transit-oriented development.
Much of the discussion at the PPUNC meeting revolved around Nagle and changes the architects have made to the proposal. The old plan had called for residential units along Nagle. The new plan calls for a retail space at the corner of Nagle and Howell.
It also calls for 10 live-work units along the rest of Nagle Place. Live-work units are technically considered commercial space. They can, in theory, be used as a residential unit or as a business. In this case, the units won’t have the necessary equipment to be a full service restaurant, but a coffee shop could be an option, as well as almost any other kind of business not requiring a full kitchen.
The gambit might not pay off. Members of the council didn’t seem excited about the prospect of the live-work units. They noted that the vast majority of such units end up being residential units with blinds drawn. Instead they’d been hoping the space would be put to more business use, which can liven up the area. Businesses tend to mean more people coming and going, and more people paying attention to the area, which, in turn can discourage more anti-social behaviors.
Weber Thompson’s Amanda Keating noted the units will be designed to look as commercial as possible, in order to encourage commercial, rather than residential uses. She said they may also consider incorporating ways that units could be combined to offer more flexibility for businesses.
She noted later that the developer, Mill Creek Residential, was hesitant to simply declare the spots had to be retail space. They feared they might not be able to find commercial tenants, and that an empty storefront would be even worse for the community that a person living in a unit with blinds drawn.
Beyond Nagle, the architects looked at some of the design criticisms, and made changes to their plan.
In the new design, architects studied what the buildings surrounding the park look like and tried to respond to that. As with the first project, they tried to incorporate into the building some of the angles in the park. The facade will seem to undulate, with angles and bays.
“We really tried to do that in an effective and fun and new way,” said Keating.
The new plans also call for a different landscaping plan to better work with the big, green electrical substation on the corner of Howell and Nagle. The substation has nine doors, and the designers can not restrict access to it, which limits the options for screening it. In the new plan, the sidewalk has been widened, so people walking past it will be able to be a bit farther way. The plan also suggests some plantings to help screen it from view, as much as possible while still allowing access.
Wednesday night promises to be a big night for some important projects around the area. Prior to the review of the Bonney-Watson project, the review board will gets its first look at the new plans for redeveloping 23rd and Union’s Midtown Center.