My first concern is with the growing size of the project, noting that some of the four original development finalists were rejected partly for this reason. The table below shows some of the numbers from earlier versions of NDC proposals. At the time NDC was selected, their stated building size was approximately 33,000 square feet. The latest proposal has grown to 53,000 square feet. I don't think this size building is what we wanted when we started this project, nor do I think the mix of uses (now at a greater volume of office space than retail) is what the Junction Task Force or others in the community identified as the desired mix of services that were in demand from the community. In earlier votes, I supported a two story building and I continue to support a two story building. I also do not support a third story because it compromises the availability of parking for this site, the Co-op, and businesses across the street.
In January, I supported a lay-by approach to parking through this project as an acceptable tradeoff to be able to maximize first floor retail opportunities. My support for that was buttressed by comments from Co-op staff to me personally and in our public meetings, indicating that they had accepted or could live with this approach (and that the remaining obstacle to Co-op expansion in the project primarily concerned price). I continue to support a lay-by for at least some deliveries (especially those by 18-wheelers).
However, I am interested in the design and location of the lay-by and the proposed uses. It may be better to configure the lay-by location and outdoor seating/green space so that the two are not immediately adjacent. For example, if the west end of the site, near the fire station, was configured for outdoor restaurant seating it would likely be more attractive for patrons and tenants if the lay-by were at the east end. Right now, the expanded outdoor area overlaps with the lay-by. I am also not clear whether the lay-by would be designed for use by all deliveries to the site or whether box trucks for smaller retail operations would use, at least in part, access from below ground parking for deliveries.
Associated with the delivery issue, will a freight or delivery elevator be included? Allowing some deliveries (including of furniture for upper level offices) to be from the parking structure with a freight elevator providing access would reduce street-side truck use and presence, improve the aesthetics of the outdoor space, possibly benefit traffic flow, and reduce need for extensive scheduling of the lay-by with the Co-ops 18-wheelers. (Note: Does anyone know whether the Co-op used 18-wheelers when they first moved here or whether 18-wheelers for deliveries were added later? If later, was there a Council decision (or even information provided) authorizing use of the city lot for 18-wheelers?). I also have questions about the logistics of trash storage and pick up.
The January 2017 design included second floor outdoor space (3,750 sq ft) and I remember discussions about possible use of this space for restaurant seating or public gatherings. The idea of having two spaces (one first floor and one second) with outdoor seating facing Carroll is exciting. I'm not sure that it makes as much sense or is as useful for retail or community uses when its on a third floor. The new design has no outside space on the second floor and I am unclear on the proposed uses of the third floor. If it is only available for events, then it would have very limited general community use (other than events).
The community has never been in one place regarding what we mean or want from 'community space.' Councilmember Schultz seems to just want a water fountain somewhere. Back at the beginning, some in the community were talking about a stage for music, areas for pop-up festivals, and outside seating. The current design is very unclear on what, if any, community space exists except for the sidewalk and right-of-way. Now, I think that sidewalk and right-of-way are important and if maximized for use, can go far to meeting the community space needs envisioned when we accepted NDC's concept plan from 2014 or for shared seating indoors, as was envisioned when we discussed the Union Market concept in January. It would be further helped by any space available for community uses (including event rental) on the second story. However, a couple of notes. Fenced off or otherwise separated outdoor seating isn't really community space, just like the tables and chairs in front of TakomaBevCo are not really community space. Public benches and other features might be (like Fred's fountain). Also, I just cannot see un-restricted community use of the third floor. For example, for security reasons. A 24/7 open outdoor space or even daylight outdoor space on the third floor would largely be invisible from the street or nearby areas. How would security be provided in such a space? Would there need to be (NDC paid) staffing for building security in general? It's possible that the space (internal alley to access second story offices could be expanded to create space as well. I just don't see the current design doing as much as previous ones did for usable, accessible community space.
Please send me your comments, send them in writing to the City Clerk, or come to the beginning of our next two meetings at 7:30 pm so you can help shape what is in the Council's resolution on about 2.5 weeks from now. (P.S. I also read all the posts on the 6 neighborhood listservs so I will see your comments there as well.). Also because you know I like surveys.... here is one!