Sunday, August 26, 2012
A couple of weeks ago City Paper reporter Joey Garrison asked me if I had heard of an Atlanta developer's proposal to demolish parts of the Werthan packing site (on 5th Avenue North between Taylor and Hume) and build a mixed-use development there. I told him that that I had not, and he referred me to a CP article on it quoting one SWH Residential Partners manager speaking of plans to go to the Planning Commission on August 15 with the intention of breaking ground in 2013 if approved. The CP also reported that while the exact use remains unclear, the building at the corner of 5th and Taylor (pictured above) will not be demolished, even though the staff seemed to recommend demolition of all buildings on the site. The large brick building farther down the block would be demolished under the plan.
I told Joey I had not heard anything about the plan, although I talked to a number of Salemtown neighbors who live near the Werthan plant with definite ideas about what should be done with the property. He asked if I knew of any concerns about tearing down historical structures on the property. I could think of none.
I could not attend the August 15 commission meeting, but after reading that the proposal was "partially approved with conditions", I did follow up with the planner overseeing it. She responded that the plan was partially approved because during the commission meeting SWH scaled back the number of buildings they were requesting to demolish. The condition required by the commission is that SWH provide photographic documentation of the site as-is, prior to demolition. She reiterated that Metro Planning has received no plans for construction or reorientation of the site and that an environmental study is being conducted at present.
I told the planner that, as a nearby neighbor of Werthan, I am not opposed to quality mixed-use construction at the old plant site. As I told the reporter, I cannot think of any reason why the buildings should not be demolished for something new that enhances our quality of life. My main concern about the Werthan facility has always been their heavy, large, highway-oriented traffic using Salemtown's narrow streets. The fact that the developer has an idea for mixed use at the site makes rezoning worth serious consideration. I could support it if traffic concerns are addressed in the reorientation. We need less rather than more 18-wheelers coming through Salemtown.
Related: the Nashville Civic Design Center's ambitious proposal for a governor's mansion and "green" down to the Cumberland River never really stood a chance at this site.
UPDATE: A Germantown resident tweets an outstanding idea for creating positive automobile traffic flow around the new development at the old Werthan site: flip Taylor on the south and Hume on the north one-way streets. This is an idea we should organize around and pursue with Metro Planning and Metro Traffic and Parking.