Thursday, November 15, 2007

Lawndale / Cornwallis Site Plan and Elevations

I got some photos of the sketch site plan that Tribek Properties submitted to the Greensboro Zoning Commission earlier this week for the Lawndale / Cornwallis intersection (see my previous post on this topic.) Their proposal was to rezone a block, which is currently Residential Single Family (RS-7), to Conditional District -- Planned Unit Development -- Infill. The Zoning Commission's vote was a tie, so the plan was automatically appealed may be appealed to City Council for a hearing and vote on December 18. (Update 11/17: A neighborhood informant tells me that Tribek now has formally appealed the decision.)

This case will give us a good idea of what kind of projects the newly-elected Council will likely approve or turn down.

The central feature of the plan is a large (14,800 sq. ft.) Walgreens that is situated in the center of the parking lot, with a corner-facing entrance as is typical of almost all new Walgreens.

The principal entrance to the parking lot is on Fairfield Avenue, which is now a residential street. A secondary entrance lets out onto Lawndale.

Edging the lot on Rosecrest and Fairfield are a series of 3-story condominiums, each with a front-facing 2-car garage on the ground floor:

The site plan shows no sidewalk on Cornwallis or Lawndale, a full sidewalk on Rosecrest, and a partial sidewalk on Fairfield. No pedestrian access to the Walgreens from the townhouses is shown, and the rear of the townhouses is divided from the Walgreen's by an 8-food masonry wall.

Pockets of green space are preserved between three of the townhouse buildings and on the corner of Rosecrest and Fairfield, where the designers have passed up the opportunity for a a signature corner entrance. (Compare the way the Hobbs building in Southside handled the corner, at left.)

A recent article in the Business Journal called this development "New Urbanist," and developer Bob Isner was quoted as calling it a "hybrid."

It is neither. The whole aim of New Urbanism is the integration of compatible uses with one another while creating a pleasant pedestrian environment and human-scaled public places -- sidewalks, pocket parks, small caf├ęs and shops -- that promote personal interaction.

This project is just a lazy and obtuse mash-up of incompatible suburban buildings types: not only are the uses not integrated with each other -- they are segregated by the physical features the designers have proposed. The Walgreens will be sitting in its pool of asphalt like every other Walgreens you've ever seen. The proposed townhouses are just slightly squished-together Reedy Fork Ranch facades (see left) whose garage entrances will form a blank wall at the sidewalk level. The green spaces can provide no opportunities for interaction; they are just empty space.

This project is "New Urban" only to the extent that Frankenstein's Monster is a human being.

City planning staff think that this development will pose a grave danger to the integrity of the Kirkwood neighborhood, and they're right.

If the Council approves this, Katie bar the door, and older neighborhoods, organize yourselves! Because no one else will be looking out for your interests.


Anonymous said...

David, are there any citizen groups in Greensboro that plan to make the case to the Council, against this project? And explain why, and maybe throw up some drawings of a better example of how to do it? I'll be watching this case; as you say, it could be a signal.

Anonymous said...

Apparently this is what the majority of Greensboro's voters (including District 3 where Zack What's-His-Name and Robbie I'll-Develop-Anything-For-A-Buck Perkins won hands down) want to see Greensboro become.

After all, it's not like the residents of Irving Park weren't very familier with the past history of both of these men.

I think we need to start building strip malls and drug stores on Sunset, Pembroke and Country Club Drive so that Irving Park can have a better taste of what they gave the rest of the city.

I've got dibs on the bulldozer!

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

That Walgreens plan does sound horrible. Why no pedestrian access? Not good at all. As for a the 'blank wall at the sidewalk level Reedy Fork facade', not all of the Reedy Fork homes are like that. Some are like this:


David Wharton said...

Erik, I think the neighborhood is organizing. At least I hope so.

It would be great if there were an independent group that evaluated projects just from a design perspective, but right now that's city staff's job (and they've done a good job on this one).

Kim -- nice house! (But it's not an urban house. :-) )

Anonymous said...

I live on Rosecrest Dr., two blocks from the site for the proposed Walgreen’s on Lawndale and Cornwallis, and I spoke at the Zoning Commission meeting on behalf of the surrounding neighborhood to oppose the rezoning request. Many neighbors attended and stood up to be recognized, and we submitted to the Commission a petition with around 50 homeowner signatures expressing our opposition. Not a single person in the neighborhood that our committee has talked with is in favor of the proposed development, and we appreciate very much your support. Thank you, David, for giving us the Preservation Greensboro perspective and helping to spread the word.

I want to correct something in this blog. The development proposal is not automatically going to City Council on Dec. 18, because it was defeated in the Zoning Commission’s vote. As a matter of procedure, a tie vote means that the rezoning request is denied, and that’s exactly what happened on Monday. So we are now waiting to see if the developers will file an appeal of the denial. They have until next Wed. Nov. 21 to do this, and our group will let you know a.s.a.p. if this happens. In the meantime, the neighborhood is anticipating an appeal and is planning for the next step. What we would like to see from the broader community are concerned citizens who are 1) willing to call members of City Council on this issue, and 2) willing to show up at the City Council meeting in opposition to the proposal, where you will be asked to stand to be recognized.

In his last Zoning Commission meeting, Zack Matheny voted our way. He said he would like to see a better plan for that corner. Before his first City Council meeting on Dec. 18, Zack will need to be encouraged by us and by you to vote our way again. Robbie Perkins would have to recuse himself from both the discussion and the vote because of his company’s involvement in this project.

Anne Hummel

David Wharton said...

Thanks for the information, Anne.

One minor note -- I don't represent Preservation Greensboro, Inc. The views expressed here are totally my own.

Benjamin Briggs blogs for Preservation Greensboro at Greensboro's Treasured Places (see my blogroll at right), and he's the one who got the ball rolling on this topic.