I received a very nice e-mail from Kenneth Mayer, the architect of the proposed new Carolina Bank building, which I criticized strenuously in a previous post. Mr. Mayer forwarded me an updated site plan,
and these words, which I quote in full with his permission:
Mr. Mayer's response points to what many people have noticed is a huge problem for good downtown design, namely, our current downtown transportation plan.
David—I have read with interest the blog postings on the Carolina Bank site plan. As the architect for this project, I would like to add to the discussion with the following comments and background. Because of the length, I was not able to post these, but perhaps you could do so.
First, the site plan shown is not the most current. I have attached the plan that has been tentatively approved by the Planning Department and the Transportation Department (GDOT). As you review the comments below, refer to this plan.
Downtown Design Guidelines: as you know these guidelines are still under development and are not yet in a form to be adopted or properly used in site planning. However, at the request of the Planning staff, we reviewed our site plan against the principles they were seeking to incorporate into the guidelines.
We developed an alternative plan that pushed the building to the street facing Spring, removed on-site parking on the Spring side of the building, and showed how on-street parking similar to that in front of the Carolina Theatre could be incorporated. This made the building’s siting more urban and pedestrian-friendly.
This positioning, however, required a direct exit onto Spring Street for customers exiting the drive-up lanes. GDOT would not allow this exit due to traffic volume on Spring. We therefore, had to move the building back to the center of the site to allow customers to leave the drive up lanes, circulate in front of the building and exit onto either Market or Friendly.
Building size: the building is 44,000 SF and four floors high—plus a gabled roof that adds to its height. We used a small floor plate to increase the building height on the site.
Parking: A building this size would normally have around 145 parking spaces—we are only providing 119. Bear in mind that there are no public decks near this site and on-street parking is limited on the three one way streets Spring, Market and Friendly. Developing underground parking is prohibitively expensive for a project this size.
Drive up lanes: Like it or not, customers prefer to have drive up lanes at full service branches such as will be included in this building.
Fencing: there is no fence around this site. The perimeter will be appropriately landscaped per our discussions with the Planning Department.
Traffic: keep in mind that this site is surrounded on three sides by multi-lane one-way thoroughfares which by themselves promote fast vehicular movement through downtown and are a detriment to pedestrian-friendly planning. [emphasis mine -- ed.] This site has to react to this situation to provide proper means of access and egress for Bank customers.
In closing, while I certainly respect everyone’s right to their opinion about the design of this project, it is always helpful to have background and facts to relate to. The project was not designed in a vacuum, it was designed with the consultation of the Planning staff and the fledgling guidelines it is developing. It also had to react to the conditions required by GDOT and the traffic patterns in this part of downtown.
Ken Mayer, AIA, LEED AP
It may be these kind of streets that finally jinxed the Bellemeade Village plan -- who can conceive living in an "urban village" that's surrounded by what one of the property owners once described to me as a "Daytona 500"?
When the Project for Public Spaces came to town several years ago for a consult on the Center City Park, their people said of Friendly Avenue, "you've got to find a way to make Friendly more friendly to pedestrians."
I've no doubt that GDOT would be perfectly happy to completely redo downtown's major thoroughfares if, as their head of engineering once said to me, "someone's got bags of money to shower on us."
Unfortunately, nobody does. And that means inferior designs downtown for the foreseeable future, I think.