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Italian Village Neighbors Clash over Parkside on Pearl Project

Brent Warren Brent Warren Italian Village Neighbors Clash over Parkside on Pearl Project
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The Parkside on Pearl development, a 47-unit apartment building proposed for the corner of East Hubbard Avenue and North Pearl Street, is still generating considerable controversy in the Italian Village neighborhood. The development was approved by the Italian Village Commission in December after receiving conditional approval in July. The Wood Companies and Schiff Capital Group first presented the concept to the commission in March.

The commission approved the design and materials of the project, but it is not their role to sign off on a requested 20-foot easement into the adjacent Italian Village Park. The easement, which will be approved or disapproved by the Recreation and Parks Department, is required by fire code and would prevent the building of any structures within 20 feet of the new building.

This is the part that has some neighborhood activists concerned – they are worried about a long-planned yet unbuilt pavilion that would have to be relocated. There is also concern about the overall effect that the building will have on the park, including the shade that would be cast by the building (it would stand seven stories high on the Pearl Street side and five stories high on the park side).

Local restauranteur Elizabeth Lessner started an online petition, which she said was inspired by conversations with a number of park neighbors who are apprehensive about the development.

“I think that before City Council and Parks and Rec approve the building, the public would still like to weigh in,” Lessner said, adding that dramatic changes in the Short North over the last five years demand a “holistic approach, looking at all sides of the issue. Everyone in the neighborhood supports development on the lot but many believe it’s the wrong sized building for that particular lot.”

Another online petition has been started by supporters of the development. Italian Village resident Mike Beaumont is on the side of the supporters, arguing that the project will enhance the park. “I believe the added density that projects like The Hub and Parkside provide will increase park usage by the public as well as further our shared goals of a more vibrant Short North,” said Beaumont, adding, “if I felt Parkside irrevocably harmed the park, I would not be in support of it, as I think the park is a community asset.”

Parkside developer Mark Wood stressed that the new building would not be located within the boundaries of the park, and would not infringe upon the public enjoyment of the park.

“Italian Village Park will remain exactly as is,” he stated. “Our proposed residential project will not, and cannot, be built on public park land, so no park land whatsoever will be ‘taken’ or ‘cut away’ or denied access by residents and users of the park.”

Wood says that landscaping along both sides of the property line is planned in collaboration with the City’s Rec and Parks Department to help buffer the building from the park, all at his own company’s expense. The apartment building also contains no direct entries at the ground-level from the park.

“Many of the very best and valued urban pocket parks like the Italian Village Park are situated adjacent to buildings,” added Wood. “Bryant Park in New York is an excellent example. Columbus Commons is another successful example of pairing urban living with parks. Parkside on Pearl will replace an eyesore gravel parking lot with a thoughtful and well-designed residential development, extending the healthy and valued community.”

The Italian Village Society (IVS), which has raised money for improvements and organized volunteers to help maintain the park, plans to meet next week to decide whether to issue a formal letter opposing the project.

Parks Director Alan McKnight said his department will wait until they receive the IVS response before they make a decision on the easement.

For more updates and discussion on Parkside on Pearl, CLICK HERE to visit our Messageboard.

Renderings via Jonathan Barnes Architecture and Design.

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