Large scale development and Riverside/Avondale

September 18, 2012 92 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Riverside/Avondale Preservation explains what large scale development means for their neighborhood and shares their view on Mellow Mushroom's plans for a new location on St. Johns Avenue.

All of us who live and do business in Riverside Avondale cherish the district?s unique historical, small-scale commercial areas, and recognize that the independent businesses here play an enormous role in making this a vibrant, cultured, and convenient place to live. As our commercial corridors have grown in popularity, they?ve become increasingly attractive to new businesses?and that?s a great problem to have. But growth, by its very nature, brings change and often comes with real costs.

Currently, we are dealing with intense and rapid growth in our commercial corridors. The influx of new restaurants and bars has been especially notable, with several more such enterprises in various stages of planning and development. Unquestionably, these restaurants and bars bring new visitors to the neighborhood, create a more vibrant streetscape, and help strengthen our local economy. But because of their popularity, they also bring predictable parking, traffic and noise issues. As more and more of these establishments cluster in our commercial corridors, these problems are magnified.

The core development issue that we as a community face today is this: Is more always better?

What is the tipping point that changes a vibrant neighborhood into an unreasonable environment? Or do the economic benefits of commercial growth in these tough times trump all other concerns? Both are valid questions that deserve reasoned, responsible debate.

Here at RAP, we certainly don’t have all the answers. But we do know this: The costs and benefits of development must be equitably distributed. That’s one of the core tenets of “smart growth.”

None of us wants to live in a community where all the benefits accrue to the developers at the expense of the residents’ quality of life or at the sacrifice of surrounding unique, small, locally-owned and operated businesses. Nor do we want to discourage entrepreneurs who are taking on financial risks in order to build quality businesses that they sincerely believe will enhance our neighborhood’s reputation as a dynamic and desirable place to live, work and play. That’s why each and every one of us needs to participate in an honest conversation about our community’s vision for its own future.

And that conversation needs to take place now—before things get worse, with all the facts on the table, and with the recognition that all parties deserve a seat. We must accept our shared responsibility to shape what comes next. Otherwise, to paraphrase the immortal words of Joni Mitchell, we may not know what we’ve got ‘til it’s gone.


RAP's Thoughts On Mellow Mushroom

Initial Mellow Mushroom site plan

During our initial meeting with Mellow Mushroom on April 10, 2012, we explained the neighborhood’s concerns regarding business scale and parking. We shared that RAP could not support a project that does not meet the Riverside Avondale Zoning Overlay’s already reduced parking standards. These concerns were reiterated on April 26, 2012, during a community meeting RAP hosted with Councilman Jim Love specifically on the Mellow Mushroom development. The increased parking load and large scale of the proposed business was the number one concern voiced by surrounding residents and businesses, followed by noise and nuisance concerns. Many attendees noted that the available street parking and nearby surface lots in the area are already at capacity, as is street parking on surrounding residential streets (causing blocked residential driveways, parking in yards and an inability for safety vehicles to travel down residential streets).

If the Overlay is not upheld then it slowly becomes a meaningless document that does not fulfill its intended purpose to protect the charming historic commercial corridors by encouraging small business and neighborhood-scale development. Under the Overlay’s rules, the Mellow Mushroom development would receive a 50% reduction in its parking requirements.

Revised August 2012 Mellow Mushroom site plan

Mellow Mushroom’s August 17, 2012 site plan showed 19 parking spaces on-site, including an on-site ADA space as required by Florida law. Under the Overlay, Mellow Mushroom would have needed to reduce their number of seats from 210 to 176 to meet the already generous exception to the regular code, as indicated below. A more recent September 7, 2012 site plan from Mellow Mushroom shows 206 seats and 22 spaces on-site. However, the site plan does not contain the on-site ADA space required by Florida law or any landscaped area to screen the parking lot from the street.

Revised September 2012 Mellow Mushroom site plan

RAP wants new businesses in the area to be successful and we support our local businesses. However, we are very concerned about the proposed size of the new Mellow Mushroom restaurant. As planned, the Mellow Mushroom will be one of the largest restaurants in our neighborhood, with a (most recently) proposed 206 seats inside and an unidentified number of outdoor seats. The existing building that the developers intend to reuse (the former restaurant/shoe store space) fit 24 exterior seats within a 50 foot stretch of building facade. Since the new building will be approximately 100 feet wide there is the potential to place an additional 72 seats outside.

The neighborhood’s focus is on the size and scale of the new addition and the proximity to the residential area. We believe the development, as presently proposed, will greatly increase the demand for parking in an area already experiencing severe parking problems. We have been working with the Mellow Mushroom owner, his public relations agent, architects, and legal representative, along with the City’s Planning Department, to reduce the scale and intensity of the proposed expansion so as to minimize its effect on the small Avondale commercial corridor and surrounding residential areas.

In addition to parking concerns, residents and nearby businesses have also voiced questions about the appropriateness of hours, services, or entertainment offered at this venue and the possible impact on their quality of life. Current plans for the new building feature an approximately 60-foot long bar stretching the length of the 100-foot building that is set back just 15 feet from the front facade. Glass doors slide open, making the bar accessible directly from the street and an open patio on the corner directs noise towards adjacent residences. At this time, the developer has refused to limit outdoor amplified sound, enclose the open spaces facing residential streets, or limit the use of the parking lot to parking, loading and deliveries only.

RAP’s Recommendations


Mellow Mushroom shall meet the Zoning Overlay requirements. This has been our position from the beginning. The Overlay should not be compromised. Click here for FAQ on the Overlay.

Based on the City Office of General Counsel’s interpretation that Mellow Mushroom is “vested” with 7 (seven) parking spaces, RAP supports the following in relation to parking:

The seat count is based on being able to provide 19 parking spaces on site, per Mellow Mushroom’s August 17 site plan. If 19 spaces cannot be accommodated on the site, then seats would have to be reduced accordingly.

Mellow Mushroom must confirm in writing with the Planning Department that their seat count includes outdoor seating, including any tables and seats on the sidewalk.

Once it is confirmed that Mellow Mushroom can provide 19 spaces in the parking lot, a reduction to 176 seats would meet the Zoning Overlay requirements. This would mean that Mellow Mushroom would not need an Administrative Deviation for parking.

Parking Lot

Must build a 6’ solid wall along the alley to buffer the adjacent residential property.

Must have at least 5’ of landscaped area behind the knee wall on Ingleside—the goal being to screen the parking lot from the street.

Parking lot use restricted to parking, loading and deliveries.

Lighting in parking lot must comply with zoning code, and specifically 656.399.21(2) and 656.607(g) to prevent glare and excessive light on adjacent property.

Exception for Outside Sales and Service

Condition that final seat count includes outdoor seating (inclusive of sidewalk seats).

No music or television sound played outside or in any covered patio area after 9 p.m.

Covered patio shall be enclosed with glass on rear (parking lot side) and side (Ingleside).

Use must be a bona-fide restaurant that serves food at all times that alcohol is being served.

Exception does not run with property – it applies to this business only.

Any sliding doors must close at 12 p.m.


August 2012 proposed Mellow Mushroom front elevation

Design issues with the infill portion of the project must be addressed as it is not currently compatible with the surrounding buildings and does not meet the Historic District Regulations. Current concerns include:

Open corner must be enclosed.

Building should read as two or three building facades, not one 100 foot expanse broken up into a suburban design.

A central, clearly identifiable entrance shall be created.

Large expanse of sliding doors must be converted to fixed storefront.

All materials to be utilized must be provided for review.

Submit a signage plan.

Submit a landscape plan that meets the code requirements.

September 2012 proposed Mellow Mushroom front elevation


Mellow Mushroom's position on latest proposal described above

Throughout the process of establishing Mellow Mushroom Avondale we have tried to ensure that everything we have done is transparent, collaborative, and in strict accordance  with the various laws and conventions applicable to the historic district of Avondale. As people have recognized, our cooperation with the neighborhood has been unprecedented and we have done our utmost to balance input from the community with our commitment to follow the law.

Next week, on the 27th, we go before the Planning Commission with our latest plan. We expect approval on the basis that we have met the requirement for parking under the overlay by establishing a new parking lot and bringing the number of seats in the restaurant down to 206.

For those interested in the math, every 8 seats requires 1 parking spot and every 4 employees require 1 parking spot. Our starting point is 206 seats and 14 employees: 206 seats/8=25.75 and 14 employees /4=3.5 total 29.25 (29) required parking spaces.

After subtracting out 7 vested parking spaces for ‘Town this leaves 22 spaces required, which are provided in the rear of the lot. This plan therefore meets the required parking under the overlay.

Note that unlike practically EVERY OTHER RESTAURANT IN THE SHOPPES OF AVONDALE Mellow will NOT REQUIRE an administrative deviation for parking.

We are proud of this and believe that it shows our commitment to doing what is right in the community in which we live.