1534 Oak Street - Appropriate for the Neighborhood?

September 21, 2010 176 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

The Black Sheep Restaurant Group, owners of popular urban core restaurants Chew and Orsay are proposing building a three story building at the corner of Oak and Margaret Streets with rooftop dining. However, not everyone in the neighborhood approves of the development.

The Site

The current site is a vacant lot, sitting at the corner of Oak and Margaret Streets. It is the only undeveloped parcel on Margaret Street between the river and Five Points.

The Plan

Black Sheep Restaurant Group plans to construct a three story building on the site with a rooftop dining/bar area.  The restaurant group has two restaurants near the site - Orsay in Avondale on Park Street, and Chew on Adams Street Downtown.  The current plan is for Chew to be closed downtown and moved to Riverside.  The restaurant would occupy the ground floor as well as a rooftop dining and bar area.  The middle two floors would be for either residential or office use.  The exact use for the middle two floors have not been determined.

The Margaret Street side rendering is actually incorrect - Mossfire Grill (represented to scale in the smaller building on the left) is actually set back four feet, not against the sidewalk.

Historic Neighborhood Concerns

The building is just outside of the historic district boundaries, however is within the boundaries of the Riverside-Avondale Zoning Overlay.  Specifically, it is in the "Urban Transition Area", across the street from the residential character area.

Exerpts from the Riverside Avondale Zoning Overlay (BOLD indicates appropriate sections)

Quote from: Sec. 656.399.24. Urban Transition Design Standards.
Urban Transition Areas as identified in Table 1.0 Character Areas, shall be required to meet the following design standards in addition to the general design standards.
 (1) Building Design Criteria is located in Section 656.399.34 and shall also include distinctive design. Buildings taller than four (4) stories shall display a distinctive design for the top of the building that can be achieved by various means including a change in materials, architectural detail, color, or step backs at the top floor, a prominent projecting cornice, or a roof with a form such as a curve, slope, or peak.
(2) Compatibility Requirements found in Section 656.399.31, must be made if adjacent to a Historic Residential area as defined in Table 1.0 Character Area Designation.
(3) On-Site Building Separation for Additional Building Height.
Building height may be increased above 60 feet under the following circumstances:
  (a) Lot size less than ½ acre. A parcel that is less than ½ acre shall have the sideyard setback determined by measuring the total height of a building and dividing it by two (2) to determine the minimum sideyard setback. A public open space that is a waterfront/plaza and/or park shall be located within the sideyard setback.
  (b) Lot size, ½ acre or more. A maximum building footprint of 20,000 sq ft. per building on parcels ½ acre or larger shall be required. The width separation is as follows for multiple buildings on the same parcel. The building width separation is determined by the height of the first building to the second building, and so forth, to determine the separation required. The required separation shall be determined by the total building height divided by two.  The area that is considered the width separation between buildings shall meet the following standards:
    (i) Mechanical equipment, service areas may not be located in between the buildings.
    (ii) Pool enclosures are not permitted in this location.
    (iii) Landscape and pedestrian walkways are permitted within the buildings.
    (iv) Waterfront plaza/park
(4)  For properties abutting the St. Johns River, a clear minimum 25 foot wide unobstructed view corridor from the right-of-way must be provided between buildings on the property and between any building on the property and the adjacent property line or any buildings on adjacent properties.
(5) Open Space, Twenty percent (20%) of the total developed site shall be public open space that provides visual and/or pedestrian access to the water.
  (a) Waterfront Plaza/Park is an area which promotes visual and pedestrian access which provides pedestrian-oriented amenities and landscaping to enhance the  use of the space for passive activities such as resting, reading, picnicking, etc. To qualify as a pedestrian-oriented space, an area must have the following:
    (i) Visual and pedestrian access (including barrier free access) to the abutting structures from the public right-of-way or a non-vehicular courtyard.
    (ii) Paved walking surfaces of either concrete or approved unit paving.
    (iii) Lighting below 15 feet in height and providing at least two (2) foot-candles (average) on the ground.
    (iv) At least three (3) feet of seating area (bench, ledge, etc.) or one individual seat per 60 square feet of plaza area or open space.
    (v) The pedestrian-oriented space shall comply with the design regulations set forth in Section 656.361.21 and shall have:
      (a) Landscaping that does not act as a visual barrier.
      (b) Site furniture, artwork, or amenities such as fountains, kiosks, etc.
      (c) A pedestrian-oriented space shall not have:
        (1) Asphalt or gravel pavement;
        (2) Adjacent chain-link fences;
        (3) Adjacent blank walls without blank wall treatment as detailed in Section 656.399.34(7); and
        (4) Adjacent visual barriers which could represent a safety/security hazard.
(6) Parking Requirements.
  (a)  Parking requirements for retail sales or service establishemnts and single-family residential uses located in contributing structures within the Urban Transition Character Area shall be zero (0).    
  (b) Parking shall be provided internal to the site and framed by buildings.
  (c)  The number of parking spaces for buildings that are forty-five feet or less shall be 25% of the required number of spaces pursuant to Section 656.604 and Section 656.604(e)(3) for any type of office use, and provided there are no additional parking credits applied under Section 656.607(d) of the Zoning Code.  
  (d) The number of parking spaces for buildings that are greater than forty-five feet shall be 50% of the required number of spaces pursuant to Section 656.604 and Section 656.604(e)(3) for any type of office use, and provided there are no additional parking credits applied under Section 656.607(d) of the Zoning Code.  
  (e) Contiguous on-street parking may be provided consistent with Section 656.399.23(2)(b)(i-iv) and Table 4.

Quote from: Sec. 656.399.34. Building Design.
The following standards are for building design of non residential building types, subject to Chapter 307 requirements, where applicable.
(1) Building frontage. Building frontages shall occupy no less than eighty (80) percent of a corridor within a Commercial Character Area or Urban Transition Character Area. If site constraints exist, a knee wall may be constructed with the following provisions.
  (a) Only twenty (25%) percent of the required frontage may be credited as part of a knee wall.
  (b) A knee wall must be constructed as described in Section 656.399.29(8).
(2) Public Entrance. Buildings that are open to the public shall have an entrance for pedestrians from the street to the building interior. This entrance shall be designed to be attractive and functionally be a distinctive and prominent element of the architectural design, and shall be open to the public during business hours. Buildings shall incorporate lighting and changes in mass, surface or finish to give emphasis to the entrances.
(3) Non residential Buildings Mass and Scale. Buildings that are more than one hundred and fifty feet (150) feet in length shall comply with the following. No more than sixty (60) feet of horizontal distance of wall shall be provided without architectural relief a minimum of thirty (30) feet wide and three (3) feet deep for building walls and frontage walls facing the street.
(4) Building Façade.  Buildings shall provide a foundation or base, typically from ground to bottom of the lower windowsills, with changes in volume or material. A clear visual division shall be maintained between the ground level floor and upper floors with either a cornice line or awning from twelve feet (12’) to sixteen feet (16’) above Base Flood Elevation or grade, whichever applies to the proposed development.  
(5) Building Features. All buildings excluding single family detached homes shall utilize at least three (3) of the following design features to provide visual relief along all elevations of the building:
  (a) Divisions or breaks in materials (materials should be drawn from a common palette).
  (b) Window bays.
  (c) Separate entrances and entry treatments, porticoes extending at least five (5) feet.
  (d) Variation in roof lines.
  (e) Awnings installed in increments of fifteen (15) feet or less.
  (f) Dormers.
  (g) Canopies, extending at least five (5) feet.
  (h) Overhang extending at least five (5) feet.
  (i) Recessed entries (at least three [3]feet from the primary façade).
  (j) Protruding entries (at least three [3] from the primary façade).
  (k) Covered porch entries.

(6) Storefront character. Commercial and mixed-use buildings shall express a storefront character.  This guideline is met by providing all of the following architectural features along the building frontage as applicable.
  (a) Corner building entrances on corner lots.
  (b) Regularly spaced and similar-shaped windows with window hoods or trim (all building stories).
  (c) Large display windows on the ground floor. All street-facing, park-facing and plaza-facing structures shall have windows covering a minimum of forty (40%) percent and a maximum eighty (80%) percent of the ground floor of each storefront’s linear frontage.  Blank walls shall not occupy over fifty (50%) percent of a street-facing frontage and shall not exceed thirty (30) linear feet without being interrupted by a window or entry. Mirrored glass, obscured glass and glass block cannot be used in meeting this requirement. Display windows may be used to meet this requirement if the first floor has not been designed as a flood proof first floor.  

(7) Orientation. The primary building entrances shall be visible and directly accessible from a public street.  Building massing such as tower elements shall be used to call-out the location of building entries.
(8) Lighting. All buildings shall have exterior lightings and shall be self contained to that building without glare or shine onto other areas of the site.

Riverside Avondale Preservation's View

RAP has met with the developers of this project to discuss their concerns.  Specifically, their concerns revolve around a few points:

- Setbacks: Every multi-story building along Margaret Street is set back from the right of way at least by four feet.  As this will be one of the largest buildings on Margaret Street, they are concerned that the building will be extremely imposing on the sidewalk as compared to the rest of the street.  Furthermore, the sidewalks on the site are currently 5 feet wide, the overlay requires 8 feet.  The developer proposes to meet this by encroaching on the travel lane on Margaret Street (which currently has 14 foot travel lanes).  While narrower streets generalkly reduce vehicle speed, it doesn't solve the issue of the building imposition on the sidewalk, particularly when compared to the other buildings near the site.

- Parking: "The existing PUD on this parcel (Ordinance 2005-695) includes some on site parking.  The Overlay requirement is that if you provide onsite parking the requirement is reduced to 25%, so they would need 19 spaces instead of 74 spaces.  Of the 21 spaces they are proposing to build, none are on site, so they are not complying with the overlay.  20 already exist so they are only adding one more.  In talking with the developers, we agreed that we would support them providing the parking on street in this instance because the property is in the Urban Transition area and the shape of the lot and space constraints that exist.  However, we expressed from the beginning that if they developed residential units, they needed to provide dedicated offsite parking for those units.  Parking is a real problem in the area.  They are proposing three-hour parking on street which will help, but not providing for residential parking needs is an issue, and they have not included dedicated residential or office parking in their plan.  They are proposing building parking spaces across the street.  We want to make sure those owners on Oak are agreeable to the creation of the new parking in front of their properties.  They also need to sign off that they understand that they are giving up their rights to claim this parking for themselves at a future date if they have some new project at that site.  Also, we really want them to agree to provide a landscape buffer along Oak Street to protect residents from automobile lights."

- Design: "We believe this kind of modern design/style requires a very high level of effort – in building construction, detailing, finish materials, and upkeep – to be successful.  There is no information regarding proposed materials/products, etc. and the PUD states that it is just conceptual and the planning department will approve the final design.  Yet, they don’t deal with design at all, so we think it is really important that they be required to go through JHPC, which has architects, contractors, etc. to review the plans in detail, to ensure that the final design is truly compatible."

Furthermore, the overlay is pretty specific on lots that have two street frontages (essentially two front yards).  The building design turns its back on Oak Street, which is currently home to residential units.  The overlay is specific that the building must have clear separation between the ground floor and upper floors, and must exhibit a "Storefront Character".


The City Council's Land Use and Zoning (LUZ) Committee meets September 21st (Today) at 5:00PM to decide the fate of this project.  Expect RAP to be there, opposing this development.  Despite the meetings, the developers didn't alter anything about the development in response to RAP's concerns.  Regardless of how one feels about the project, this is not a good way to develop a neighborhood. For a better neighborhood, developers need to work with community organizations (like RAP) from the onset of projects.  It's no secret who RAP is, especially for a company that owns a current retail business in the Historic District.  RAP should have been involved in this project from the begining, not after the plans were set.

After the meeting tomorrrow, most likely either RAP or Black Sheep Restaurant Group (or both) will leave the meeting unhappy.  That is not good for anyone.

Let the members of the Land Use and Zoning Committee know your thoughts:

Group 2:  John R. Crescimbeni (Chair)
Phone: (904) 630-1381
Email: JRC@coj.net

District 11:  Ray Holt (Vice Chair)
Phone: (904) 630-1383
Email: Holt@coj.net
Assistant: Connie Holt

District 14:  Michael Corrigan (District Councilmember for this Development)
Phone: (904) 630-1390
Email: Corrigan@coj.net
Assistant: Dianne Smith

District 2:  William Bishop
Phone: (904) 630-1392
Email: WBishop@coj.net
Assistant: Suzanne Warren

District 4:  Don Redman
Phone: (904) 630-1394
Email: Redman@coj.net
Assistant: Scott A. Wilson

District 10:  Reginald L. Brown
Phone: (904) 630-1684
Email: RBrown@coj.net
Assistant: Daphne Colbert

District 13:  Dick Brown
Phone: (904) 630-1397
Email:   DickB@coj.net
Assistant: Stan Johnson

Group 3:  Stephen C. Joost
Phone: (904) 630-1396
Email: Joost@coj.net
Assistant: Celeste Hicks

Article By Steve Congro.  Photos and Graphics from urbanjacksonville.info and Riverside Avondale Preservation