A large crowd came to the meeting of the North Shore Design Review Committee meeting Thursday night to see changes that developers and architects made to the site plan for a grocery store proposed for the 300 and 400 block of North Market Street. A lot of people came, too, to give comments to the design committee. In the end, some design elements were approved and the developers were asked to refine others.
It was unanimous that the people present were in favor of a grocery store, but the majority of those speaking wanted the style of the project to fit in better with the spirit of the design guidelines that have been adopted for North Shore development by the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency. Many residents have concerns that a lot of the requirements included in the C-7 commercial / mixed use zoning of the project site have not been incorporated into the design of this development.
Those speaking in favor of the store cited the need for a big box grocery store to complete the need of the people in the neighborhood. One speaker said that every “P” store he had seen was first class, and he said that the focus should be welcoming them. Architect Garnet Chapin told the committee that he lived in the neighborhood, and that he had gone door-to-door showing drawings of the proposed store and out of 100 people he contacted, only five had a problem with it. He added that parts of the neighborhood are low income and don’t necessarily have a car. “Those people are thrilled with the prospect of walking to the grocery store” and it would bring jobs to the neighborhood, he said. He added that he would lead a movement to change the guidelines to allow for the store, if needed.
Concerns expressed by those that wanted changes to the plan included the size of the project. The North Shore guidelines call for the ideal store size to be around 10,000 square feet. This new one is closer to 46,000 square feet and, including the parking lot, will be about the size of four football fields. The size of the parking lot is an insult to the neighborhood when anything that is built should complement it, said one resident.
Building at that location will require the removal of a half dozen buildings and 50-100-year-old trees. Most people recognized that the design of the building would be classified as suburban when the plan calls for urban styling with zero lot lines, and a mixed use building. As proposed, the building is just a “nod” to mixed use, with only a few little shops, said Bob McNutt, who helped put this C-7 district together. He suggested that the building along the Market Street side should be completely fronted with small shops. The developers responded by saying that the store spaces will only be 30 feet deep and may be hard to lease because of the small size and that the client they represent is unwilling to add more.
Setback requirements are also in question since only the portion of the building where five retail spaces are located achieves the goal of zero lot line. The remainder of the building will sit 30 feet behind it.
The large layout of the project on small streets is another issue that worries people in the neighborhood. With deliveries being made daily to the store in l8-wheeler trucks, the safety of pedestrians and bikers will be impacted, especially at the truck entrances. The developers said there is room planned on-site for trucks to turn around so they would not block public streets. Another traffic issue is the two proposed curb cuts. The master plan specifies limiting curb cuts. Several people mentioned the Walgreen’s parking lot which has two, as being very pedestrian unfriendly and as an example not to emulate.
The time of day for deliveries was also discussed. Steve Leach, administrator of Chattanooga Public Works, told the committee that should be regulated by city ordinances, and that the design committee does not have the responsibility to determine hours of servicing the building. That matter might fall under a noise or nuisance ordinance.
There were also requests for bike racks and bike lanes on the streets surrounding the two blocks occupied by the store. The placement of racks in the parking area was agreed upon by the developers, and the city will put others on the sidewalks.
One citizen was worried by the extensive discussion of screening around the structure. He said that screening is put places to hide something you don’t want to see.
The people brought their concerns to the design committee hoping that they would put pressure on the developers to make this what they considered a better design.
Bill Whitfield representing TWH architects addressed the committee saying that his company had made the changes requested last month and had brought them before the design committee for review. The issues addressed were the addition of more windows, site lighting and landscaping plans, which will provide one tree for every five parking spaces. Lighting in the parking lot will be on 20 foot poles in an attempt to keep them below the level of the neighborhood. Screening of certain areas, including some parking, the dumpster and air conditioner at the back of the building on Kent Street, and of mechanical structures on the roof top had been added to the plan since the last meeting.
Changes in the design plan were also made. A “mechanical penthouse” was added to the back of the building to house equipment for refrigeration. Also, a “tower entrance” was added to the corner at North Market Street to make the façade more interesting, along with non-functional windows across the top of the building.
Having made these requested revisions, the developers came to the meeting believing that the site plan had been approved, and were hoping to move forward with the building. Instead, they were told that last month the general location of the building was approved, but not the setbacks and elevations. At the Thursday meeting, the committee had the right to approve, defer or deny the plan.
After the discussion of each issue, two motions were made and passed. The first approved as presented pedestrian access, the screening measures, sidewalks, and building mass, along with the suggestion that the developers add bike racks in the parking lot.
The second motion that was passed deferred the vote on some elements with conditions. Setbacks were one, with the design committee asking the developers to discuss with their client the desire to add more storefronts to the Market Street side of the building. The landscaping and lighting will be approved when the committee sees final plans. And changes will be made to the façade, including doors, windows and materials. The desire is to create interest and animation to the store front facing the parking lot, by using an element other than fake windows.