Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Downtown's Next (Pretty) Big Thing

It may not be the huge, $200 million-plus project that's all the buzz in Greensboro these days, but Brown Investment Properties and Kavanagh Homes are moving toward building Murrow Station, a residential/office project in the northeast corner of the downtown business district, about 200 yards from my house. It's a $42 million development, and that's nothing to sneeze at.

It looks like it will have about 132 condominiums and townhouses, along with office or retail on the first floor along Lindsay and Murrow, and (I hope) Summit Avenue.

Chester Brown III was kind enough to e-mail me these preliminary architectural sketches and a proposed site plan, and he asked me to circulate it among my neighbors; he also said it was fine with him if I posted it on my blog, so here it is.

I showed it to some planner friends, and they dubbed it a "pretty good" project, which lines up with what I thought of it. The architecture is urban-looking, with flat roofs, brick facing, and metal details. The siting is pretty urban, too, with the larger, mixed-use buildings fronting the major streets without much of a setback. Parking is in the rear or beneath the buildings, which makes for a better pedestrian experience.

I had some concerns that the sidewalk connectivity wasn't very good from the inside of the complex to the major thoroughfares, and also that the large building facing Summit should have some kind of entrances -- either offices, storefronts, or residential -- to the sidewalk, and not just first-floor parking. Without that, the building would just be like a big battleship next to Summit, rather than a real building that has a relationship to its environment.

Chester was receptive to all these ideas, and to a few more that came from my neighborhood association board. He and the Kavanaghs have done a good job of letting the neighborhood know what they're planning. I hope this project succeeds; it's very similar what our neighborhood's recent corridor study called for.

The only downside is that the old Pet Dairy and the Peacemaker building will be demolished. Those are both good buildings, and the Pet Dairy is one of the few remaining Art Deco buildings left in Greensboro. It's not the most beautiful building of its kind, but it's hard for me to feel good about a demolition.

But you have to pick your battles.

Update: An astute reader asked whether there's a market for these new units, since there's been so much development downtown, and not all of it is selling quickly. Chester Brown told me that Murrow Station will be considerably lower-priced than what's on the market now, with the target demographic being young professionals and empty-nesters.

Update II: Kim asks the price range. I'm not sure, but I think they'd be starting at about $120k. You can see the townhouse floor plans if you click here and increase the PDF doc to about 200%.


Anonymous said...

I wonder what the price range would be. I'm not a young professional (sadly, I'm closer to middle aged than young at this point!), and I'm not an empty tester, however, my parents are and I'm trying to convince them to move down here. In a lot of ways that might be something they'd like, but I know my mom worries about being too close to the neighbors with condos and townhouses, and my father still enjoys mowing the lawn. But, perhaps if the price is right...

Anonymous said...

empty tester? What the heck is an empty tester? EEEK! Nester, nester, empty NESTER!

jimcaserta said...

The drawings look a lot like some new condos build in Winston on Broad St. I tried to find the exact website, but here is one example of what is new to the area between West End & the heart of downtown:
That location should 'improve' when WS builds the new ballpark downtown.

Good news!

jimcaserta said...

I think this is the building on Broad that is complete.

Anonymous said...

From a quick glance, these look nicely designed.

I would be curious to know if there is much consideration going into using green building practices. Especially given the water issues down there (my mom still lives in GSO), it would be nice to see something done with the roof spaces...gardens, water capture, etc., along with any other structural/decorative choices that could be made in favor of sustainable building practices and energy efficiency.

But overall, it could be much fuglier, and pricier. Nice. And nice that there seems to be some dialogue with the neighborhoods surrounding, as well.

David Wharton said...

Charlie, the neighborhood suggested green building to Chester, and he didn't rule it out. But I doubt he'll do it unless he sees a strong market for it.

If anyone can find evidence that green construction helps sell units, I'll be more than happy to pass it on.

Anonymous said...