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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.”

For ongoing discussion on this development, CLICK HERE to visit our Messageboard.

All renderings via Architectural Alliance.

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  • MBT

    “We want minimal impact to the neighborhood, but obviously we need the parking for successful businesses to go in,” he said.

    Seems like a bit of an overstatement considering the number of “successful businesses” along High St. Obviously, parking is a concern, but Italian Village does not need the urban equivalent of a strip mall. I can’t help but be a little suspicious of the developer’s comments.

  • BigDAVE

    The reuse of the existing buildings is best. Try telling someone to tear down their perfectly fine building when they propose to reuse it. Their plan has more parking than the IVC or neighborhood needs now…but require that they allow the lots to be utilized by other businesses in the neighborhood when they cannot have parking. Sort of a parking bank. Landscape and fence it to be appealing. Their building rehab plans look nice. Thanks!
    Local Neighbor Dave

  • heresthecasey

    Their first proposal was for demolition of the entire site. So I find the comments saying how much they now value preservation hard to believe.

  • Totally spitballing here just for the sake of discussion, but what if there is some sort of compromise that resembles my crude photoshop site plan below?

    Line Hamlet with townhomes similar to what can be found just west of the site on Punta Alley. Give them off-street parking access from rear garages or dedicated parking spaces. Fill the rest of the space between the existing buildings and the new townhomes with parking for retail users. There can be small curb-cut access into that central lot from north (Third) and south (Punta). Save both structures to repurpose as retail, office or residential. Expand the warehouse building up to front Fourth Street. A multi-story structure here (3 stories) would be ideal with more residences above retail. Reserve the open area at the south-east corner of the site for landscaping, patio and greenspace for a restaurant user and residential/neighborhood access. It would allow the historic trolley barn building to still be visible from Fourth and complimented by the new building adjacent.


  • mbeaumont

    That’s not a bad plan, Walker.

    I do wish these guys would just explain why their initial plan can’t be tweaked to support renovating the trolley barn.

    Their initial request was total site demo (including the barn) with townhomes down 3rd ave and a three story mixed-use building right up on 4th, with semi-hidden parking behind accessible via Hamlet and Punta. I realize that renovating the trolley barn will be very costly but there must be some way to make that initial plan work, trolley barn included. That, to me, is still the best solution.

  • Mike88

    This guy is half-assing it and full of crap. They originally wanted to Demo it all. That warehouse is old and dumpy and he knows the IVC was looking to save the trolley barn not the warehouse.

    The solution here is simple, and could be a perfect mix of their initial proposal and the second. First, redo the barn per the existing (second) plan, then level the warehouse. Build 2-3 story retail/apartment spaces up to the sidewalk on 4th, the existing footprint of the parking lot is ample space to do that without overwhelming the streetscape. Once that is done the footprint of the old warehouse can become parking at more than the 1.5 spaces per unit needed. The remainder of the site which is a fenced in lot can then be used for either A more residential spaces or (and this will never happen) a community space that would make for a perfect park or piazza.

  • Mike88

    Here’s a follow up to my plan to mirror walkers crude photoshop. This reflects the most profitable outcome for the developer. For Sale homes, Mixed Use buildings on 4th, saved trolley barn, and ample parking…

  • Mike88

    Whoops, here’s the image…

  • dru

    Thanks for the awesome new curb cut. Sincerely – Punta Alley.

    • Is there any way to park without a curb cut? Which street should be the recipient? ;)

  • dru

    There is already an existing curb cut off Third Avenue.
    Punta, as an alley, has multiple original homes that were built with no off-street parking. A curb cut would likely remove 3 at a minimum.

  • jeff excell

    As the co-owner of Fox in the Snow I would just like to say that I am not over excited to have our cafe used to justify this plan. Just putting that out there.

  • BenG

    Homes facing Hamlet has merit.

    Expanding the existing building east toward 4th has merit.

    Landscaping between existing structures and 4th definitely has merit.

    Reducing the size/coverage of the CE-proposed lot has merit.

    Curb cut on Punta does represent one or two spaces lost at first glance, but this development also presents an opportunity to negotiate spaces that don’t currently exist — a possible net gain.

    Meanwhile, one of the more important issue to the commission (beside preserving the 1899 building) is that the developer address/improve recent changes to the parking lot that resulted in a code violation.

  • CivilE

    While I agree with most of the other posters that a combination of preservation and new-build would be best for the site, there is likely some logical rationale for the developer doing a 180 on the design. The cost of preservation and retrofitting an existing building is often many times greater than demolishing and starting from scratch. The cost of preserving the trolley barn may make it cost-prohibitive to demolish the warehouse and build new. The two proposals may equal out in terms of cost versus expected revenue even though the preservation design seems like a scale-back. Had the developer been a bit savvier and proposed the preservation option first, he likely wouldn’t be getting the negative feedback. He tipped his hand by showing the new-build option. Now the IVC and community see what is possible and the developer is being held to a higher standard that the developer, himself, has shown is achievable. As an Italian Village resident, I don’t always agree with the IVC and the hoops they make some people jump through, while others seem to get a pass, but I happen to agree with them 100% on this project. Fourth St. is blowing up and now is the time to make the smart decisions that will benefit everyone in the long run. If this developer can’t do it, someone else will come along sooner rather than later, and fully utilize the site.

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