In June 2012, Five Points Village was partially destroyed by fire. Now Peter Sleiman's Retail Properties, Inc. is prepared to improve their strip mall and the community isn't happy about it.
The Redevelopment Plan
Retail Properties is currently proposing to renovate their fire damaged shopping center. Plans include reducing the center to 17,000 square feet instead of rebuilding to the original 21,000 square foot footprint. The extra land would be converted into additional surface parking. A new facade, sidewalk seating areas, and better landscaping are also a part of the plan.
Proposed Five Points Village site plan
Proposed Five Points Village front facade
Proposed Post Street facade
Proposed Forbes Street facade
As a part of the redevelopment plan, Retail Properties, Inc. desires to rezone the property to allow the development to ignore zoning buffers, setbacks, signage and landscaping. Led by Riverside Avondale Preservation, several residents desire to see the existing structure possibly demolished and relocated closer to Margaret Street. A structure that embraces Margaret Street would better fit within the character and scale of Five Points, strengthening walkability and activity between Post Street, Riverside Park and Memorial Park. In addition, the shopping center's dumpsters are seen as a nuisance to adjacent neighborhoods and a better solution is desired. In response, an alternative plan has been developed for consideration by the developer.
Alternative site plan suggested by Riverside Avondale Preservation
However, this plan doesn't exactly align with economic reality. For example, the retail center already exist and is occupied by tenants with lease agreements in place. Completely demolishing a viable retail structure and replacing it with a relocated structure would be a significant financial burden to the property owner. In addition, constructing a new building to block the visibility of the existing retail structure, basically reduces the marketability and viability of the center's existing retail tenants and the building's overall value.
City of Jacksonville Planning and Development Department's Recommendation
The removal of this drive thru ATM machine is one of several conditions Retail Properties, Inc. would have to meet in its efforts to gain approval to move forward with the proposed redevelopment plan.
On October 24, 2012, the Planning and Development Department recommended approval of Retail Properties' application with a laundry list of conditions to meet. In short, working to meet this list of conditions for approval essentially means a complete redesign of what has been proposed by Retail Properties, Inc. The list of conditions are listed below:
a) The new storefronts shall be redesigned to include transoms and knee walls on all units.
b) The four units with tile roofs shall have columns added at the ends to provide a terminus for the tile roof, define the opening for the awning and offer additional delineation between units.
c) The taller corner units shall extend 40-50% down the side elevations on Forbes Street and Post Street with the proposed glass storefronts limited to the same area.
d) The lower units with the tile roofs shall be consistent in height and a maximum of 20 feet. The two end units shall be a maximum of 25 feet in height. The middle unit shall be no more than 27 feet. The rear wall of the building along the property line of the adjacent residence on Forbes Street and the back 50-60% portion of the Forbes Street elevation shall be no higher than the existing walls in these areas (approximately 15 feet).
e) Any mechanical equipment placed on the end units shall be placed behind the higher wall sections and at least 20 feet from the adjacent residential lots to limit visibility.
f) The band detail above the storefronts shown on the two end units shall be eliminated or not extend into the columns.
g) More information and product specifications shall be provided on the dark brown storefront detail on the middle unit and the black granite tiles proposed for the knee walls on the end units to ensure compatibility.
h) The sidewalks on Forbes Street shall not be expanded for café seating.
i) A central internal walkway through landscaped medians with shade trees shall be provided through the front parking lot.
j) All crosswalks shall be done with bricklike pavers.
k) Driveway access to the main parking area shall be limited to one on Post Street and one on Forbes Street.
l) All right-of-way areas beyond the conditioned driveway accesses and angled parking on Margaret Street shall be retained and/or altered to traditional green spaces.
m) Any freestanding ATMs shall be eliminated from the site.
n) A landscaped buffer shall be provided on the south and west property lines of the Post Street lot. The proposed rear addition shall be amended as needed to accommodate the buffer.
o) All site lighting shall be of a pedestrian scale and have a historic appearance.
p) The knee wall with the sign at the front of the property shall be eliminated.
q) The site plan shall be amended to include a minimum of a 2-foot perimeter landscaping buffer.
r) The monument sign shall be limited to 6 feet in height.
s) No signage shall be internally illuminated.
t) The proposed buffer wall shall be amended to have a more traditional design with the end of each height section terminating verses initiating with a column and each column having a separate raised cap.
u) A matching 2 foot knee wall shall be added to each side of the driveway on the Post Street lot with a landscaped area behind it.
v) The dumpster enclosure shall be at least 8 feet in height in order to fully screen the equipment with 100% opaque, fully-framed doors constructed of a durable material.
w) The rear wall of the addition shall be stucco to match the Post Street elevation.
x) Small changes to accommodate zoning or other regulated building/site requirements that do no conflict with the adopted conditions or stated concerns of the Commission may be handled administratively.
y) All amended plans and product information shall be provided to staff for review/approval prior to permitting.
a) Any restaurant and/or sidewalk seating should be limited to the units from the middle of the building to the Post Street end.
b) An arcade with column spacing similar to the existing could be incorporated on 1-3 of the larger units.
c) Historic details such as terra cotta scuppers, decorative metal grills or cast stone vents could be incorporated into the design to provide architectural interest.
d) The colonial style lighting on the end units could be reconsidered and potentially eliminated.
e) The use of wider display window panes is more appropriate.
f) The use of large planters at store entries to help provide urban landscaping along the façade is encouraged.
g) Additional landscaped islands could be added to the right-of-way parking on Margaret to allow for the retention of existing trees in this area.
h) The dumpster enclosure should include a trellis design to provide screening when viewed from above the structure.
Tragedy Presents Opportunity
The Wasabi Buffet fire that destroyed that business and portion of the shopping center was a tragedy for many. However, Retail Properties' decision to renovate the fire damaged center should be commended and viewed as an opportunity to improve the area. With this in mind, a compromise that doesn't significantly increase redevelopment costs could be possible by a redesign of the destroyed Wasabi Buffet area.
While many would like to see something as urban as Black Sheep's project a few blocks east, the economic reality of the situation is that isn't going to happen. However, improving the center's, walkability, character, scale, and dumpster nuisance situation could be viable by not reconstructing the entire portion of the center already destroyed by fire.
Instead, of rebuilding the same footprint, if the shopping center were treated like any other strip retail center, one could view reconstruction as being a new retail structure of equal size, serving as an "outparcel" that embraces the street. Combined with better sidewalks and landscaping along Maragaret Street (already proposed), the structure helps strengthen connectivity between the shopping center and Five Points, while also maintaining visibility to the existing retail structure.
For example, shifting this structure to the intersection of Margaret and Forbes Streets, places it within a few feet from Derby on Park and Hovan's. With this structure, an interior sidewalk connecting the existing retail structure to Margaret Street, becomes an activity center with outdoor dining and retail frontage, instead of an isolated sidewalk in the middle of a surface parking lot. It creates an opportunity to resolve the dumpster nuisance situation by relocating them to an interior area of the site that can be better buffered from adjacent residents, while also being more accessible to the retail area's tenants.
Described concept above, incorporating remarks from the community overlayed over Retail Properties, Inc. proposed site plan.
Sketch of key features of a site plan combining the needs and desires of both parties.
The buildings in front of Publix, at Margaret and Riverside, are examples of what is described above. Publix still has visibility to drive by vehicular traffic, while smaller outparcel buildings along the street, strengthen and improve the pedestrian experience where the site meets the sidewalk.
Does this mean that this is the best example available that may be fair to all parties involved? No. However, it suggests if all parties come together and honestly work with one another, a series of viable alternatives achieving the desired goals of the community and property owner may come to light.
Editorial by Ennis Davis
For additional information visit: http://residentnews.net/2012/11/05/5-points-village-rezoning-application-draws-ire/