I was able to get and tune into Channel 3 about halfway through the meeting (which eventually finished as expected in very short order) in time to catch the discussion on the Ardelia Park development. No one from Salemtown Neighbors Neighborhood Association spoke against or for the development. A couple of residents who live near the 7th & Garfield intersection spoke in favor of it as did a contractor with Ardelia Park.
Again defying ridiculous stereotypes, no neighbors spoke against it, but another developer did. The developer expressed the same concerns that Metro Planning did: the setback of the 5 single family homes is too close to the street compared to the other single family homes on 7th Avenue. The other developer, who insisted that he was not opposed to developing the property, expressed concern about hooking up 5 1,900 square foot units to a single ancient sewer line that he had already hooked houses to.
The Council unamimously passed Council Member Erica Gilmore's rezoning proposal without a deferral to deal with stormwater and sewer issues. Ms. Gilmore merely told the council that they would be dealt with and that the measure required immediate approval because "nothing was happening" in "blighted" Salemtown. The Vice Mayor offered the option of deferral, but it was declined. So, it looks like Ardelia Park is headed toward easy approval, since most bills (and almost all unanimously supported bills) pass on third reading.
Here some unanswered questions and challenges as Ardelia Park is quickly moving toward reality and any chance of the community influencing the project has all but evaporated:
- Will the stormwater concerns expressed by neighbors and by Metro Stormwater be addressed? The builder has already said that he cannot afford to hook up to the bonafide stormsewer, so stormwater will shed on the surface, and yet most of the surface will be covered either with a parking surface or with poured foundation. How will Council Member Gilmore show that she has followed through on her promise to make sure that stormwater is dealt with?
- Will developer RC Hazzard follow through on his word to be open to community feedback on design? At last night's Salemtown Neighbors association meeting, Mr. Hazzard asked members for feedback and told us that he is willing to diversify the design on each of the buildings in the development. That goes against his comments about not changing the design made at a community meeting several months ago.
- Will Mr. Hazzard market the build in the same way he sold it to the association? Last night he told us that the Metro Planning-opposed corner unit would face the blighted K&M Market, so that residents could "keep an eye" on anything shady happening across the intersection. While that may soothe the current residents, I don't know many homes that are sold on the basis of the owner have the privilege of being the sentry watching perhaps a neighborhood's sketchiest spot.
- Are we unwittingly putting ourselves in the weaker, more vulnerable position by continuing to rationalize these developments by arguing that "something, anything" is better than the status quo? Does it really serve Salemtown to maintain, "If not this, then nothing will happen."? My sense is that developers will build down to meet a community's expectations rather than building something that meets a higher standard on their own. And the concepts look acceptable on paper, but in reality they could as easily become a low-rent node to compliment the awful K&M Market and the imposing Union Rescue Mission, rather than quality housing that benefits the neighborhood as a whole. Real estate sharks sense desperation, and I don't like the desperation that comes across when we say that we need Ardelia Park more than it needs Salemtown. And even it realizes its full potential, it still a piecemeal solution to an intersection that ought to be a thriving gateway to Salemtown.
- Am I too cynical to be suspicious of Mr. Hazzard's argument that he will move into whichever of the 5 units is last too sell? As long as I've lived in Salemtown, I've heard the developers' song over and over of promises to live in what they build. With all of those promises, I've never seen it happen, and so, when I hear one more absentee landowner tell me this, it has no effect on me whatsoever, other than to cause me to say to myself, "Whatever." I'm either going to need something in writing or the actual sight of RC Hazzard moving in to believe it. Although he could put way two of these questions by signing a pre-build contract to live in the unit facing the K&M Market; not that would be impressive.