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Capitol Equities Defends Retail Proposal for Italian Village

Walker Evans Walker Evans Capitol Equities Defends Retail Proposal for Italian VillageRendering via Architectural Alliance.
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Last week, the Italian Village Commission weighed in on a redevelopment plan for 995 North Fourth Street that proposed the renovation of two buildings for retail use and the creation of additional paved surface parking lot spaces behind the building. Most members of the commission voiced major concerns with both the renovation and the parking addition.

The plan presented last week is a major revision to the original proposal, which suggested a complete demolition at the site, and a replacement of larger three-story building, not unlike other types of development happening throughout the neighborhood. The project is being proposed by site owner and developer Capitol Equities, and Principle R. Todd Kemmerer shared his frustrations with the commission’s feedback so far.

“I thought the commission’s number one goal is to preserve first,” he said. “I thought we came up with a unique idea to provide retail services to the residents. I’ve sat in enough meetings to know that residents will complain about parking up the streets, so we added more in the back so that we’ve got parking for the guests from outside the area. I guess the commission is looking to not promote that — I don’t get it.”

Kemmerer said that Capitol Equities purchased the property about a year and a half ago, and has been exploring retail use due to the fact that many residential developments in the area thus far have little retail included, and several new businesses in the area have seen a lot of success.

“Look at the Fox in the Snow Cafe and how great that turned out, and how bad it looked before,” he stated. “Fox in the Snow wasn’t some great building. I wish people would give this idea a little more of a chance and a little more vision.”

Some of the commission members last week voiced concern with the existing parking lot in the front of the property along Fourth Street. They noted that the current layout where parking sits between the street and the business does not fit with Commercial Overlay guidelines for the inner city, and that the lot had been resurfaced last summer without updating to comply with code violations.

“We simply repaved what was existing — that’s all that happened there,” stated Kemmerer, who added that the addition of paved parking in the back of the building also has a precedent for the site. “We’re not changing anything, because it’s already used as parking. It’s a gravel parking lot, but it’s not overly used.”

Kemmerer said that although the retail would be neighborhood-centric, the parking component is critical to making retail work for this site. He said that he wouldn’t be opposed to landscaping the front of the property facing Fourth Street as long as it didn’t cause them to lose too many parking spaces.

“We want minimal impact to the neighborhood, but obviously we need the parking for successful businesses to go in,” he said. “It seems like there ought to be some reasonable compromise. We just want to save these buildings and provide services to the neighborhood.”

As to what that compromise looks like, Kemmerer isn’t quite sure yet.

I don’t know what we’re going to do yet — we’ve got to regroup this week,” he said. “One commissioner stated last week that sometimes working with what we already have is the best solution. Certainly our work with The Smith Bros Hardware building is great example of that. So many people told me to tear it down to replace it with a new hotel next to Convention Center. Berry Boltworks another good example of our preservation work. This property wouldn’t be a whole lot different.”

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All renderings via Architectural Alliance.

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