Dawson Place

I’m sorry that family matters will prevent me from watching tonight’s public hearing live. I’ll have to catch it in reruns; it promises to be a good one.

One of the items on the manageably small agenda is the closing of Dawson Place, an alley between 331 and 337 W. Rosemary St. (337 is the former Breadman’s site) that allows access to parking and deliveries for several Franklin Street businesses, including Mediterranean Deli and DB Sutton. Rescinding the right-of-way would enable the owner of the two side-by-side properties to proceed with the special use permit process to build Shortbread Lofts, a 76-unit condo building originally proposed in January 2006.

A large residential building, once tenanted, would be a boon to nearby businesses, and so far no one is making any noise against the development. But at least one adjacent property owner, David Rudolf, who owns 312-20 W. Franklin St., buildings that include offices and Crunkleton Bar, wants to make sure that a new right-of-way is constructed before the existing one closes.

Rudolf is right to insist. Developers can make all sorts of promises, but the road to the parking and delivery area should not be paved with good intentions.

A case in point: Some years back a woman who owned several acres on Coolidge Street decided to sell a large portion of the land adjacent to her home. She spent time and money working with an engineer to create a development plan of single-family homes and a community playground that would fit in with the neighborhood in which she lived. She sold the land to a developer contingent upon his following the plan she had laid out.

No sooner had the deal closed than the developer resold the land to another developer, who was not obligated to follow the plan. That developer stuffed the property full of as many duplexes as the zoning allowed without having to go through a special use permit process. The woman who owned the land to begin with now must spend her golden years living in the midst of a student-housing ghetto.

Shortbread Lofts has been five years in the making as it is. A lot could happen between the time the town approves rescinding the right-of-way and a new one being established. Asking for the new access to be built and approved as a right-of-way before changing Dawson Place’s status seems a reasonable request.
— Nancy Oates

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  1. Let’s hope the third time is a charm for the Town as far as integrating a workable construction plan into a Downtown project.

    The lessons of Greenbridge – difficult road closures, dealing with (falling) debris, managing business impacts didn’t seem to make a major difference with West140 (Lot $$$5). Many of the same problems have cropped up with some serious impacts on nearby businesses. We don’t need to go for the trifecta with Shortbread.

    If the Council is going to continue to approve these type of developments Downtown having a reasonable and practical construction plan in place before approval is necessary. We asked for it with Greenbridge and West140 to no avail – maybe Council will have finally learned that it doesn’t pay to delay.

    Cousins, at University Square, also has said “don’t worry, trust us” on construction impact planning. Considering the impact that project will have on Downtown, we need to demonstrate a success with Shortbread that will show the business community the Town cares about the consequences of development.

  2. Elliot

     /  September 19, 2011

    A week doesn’t go by, that I don’t feel like kicking some (figurative) voter butts, over the fact that Will Raymond is not on the town council.

  3. Mark Marcoplos

     /  September 19, 2011

    I appreciate this type of information/journalism that helps us understand important local issues.

  4. Terri Buckner

     /  September 19, 2011

    I hope the council will also consider timing. There should not be more than 1 major development (think u-square, lot 5, and shortbread) under exterior construction at a time.

  5. Joe Capowski

     /  September 19, 2011

    Nancy, you are right on with the example at the western end of Coolidge and Pine Bluff. Every council candidate should visit this site to see how development can go wrong. It shares many issues with Northside, but with much higher density and zero consideration by the developer for anything except his pocketbook. Perhaps I’ll present it as an example to avoid during the meetings about the upcoming rewrite of the comprehensive plan.

  6. Thank you Elliot for the kind support. During the West140/Greenbridge approval process there were a number of mundane issues that were raised which were pushed off to later in all the “rah rah” of shoving them through. The Council then focused on their new TC-3 zone and highfalutin rhetoric (some – like “eyes on the street” – of which, nonsensically is being applied to sell the new round of projects).

    Developing a cooperative process to manage construction, evaluating the fiscal riskiness and cost structures of the affordable housing component, establishing how “public” public spaces are, nailing down the financing of West140, setting clear goals and having a monitoring process in place to make sure we achieved those goals are just a few of the more pedestrian elements which were left on the wayside as Council pressed their “big at any cost” agenda.

    Quite sad that only a handful raised or responded to these concerns – notably Laurin, Matt – with Jim and Ed pitching in sometimes.

    Given the well publicized problems during Greenbridge’s construction, I expected West140 to be managed more smoothly.

    Joe, I agree that Coolidge is a great benchmark to use in thinking about how to craft the more fully fleshed out Comprehensive Plan.

    Speaking of which, folks might want to review the letter a good chunk of the SVTF presented to Council which kind of finally spurred action on the Comp Plan rework. It’s not exhaustive by any means but does cover some of the bases ( http://citizenwill.org/2010/03/09/sustainability-task-force-the-whole-or-the-sum-of-the-parts/ ).

    None of the signers were contacted or included in designing the new 2020 process.

    Along those lines, it’s a shame to see the same missteps being made with the new 2020 process. I plan to participate as fully as possible but, at least right now, it seems to be an exercise designed to create the appearance of community participation without having to make any substantive progress which could cause political problems.

  7. Elliot

     /  September 21, 2011

    “It seems to be an exercise designed to create the appearance of community participation without having to make any substantive progress which could cause political problems.

    Isn’t that always the case? Advisory committees are designed to wear down activists, who settle for a compromise. Then the compromise gets further sacrificed at the council level, where the vested interests get another whack at the piñata.

    In the end, the citizen-volunteers get 25% of what they wanted and the professional developer’s staff, who are paid to attend the public hearings, receive 75% of their original request.

    The more layers of review – the closer a project comes to ressembling its original presentation.