Tuesday, May 29, 2012

12South leaders believe they can make positive contributions to TwelveSouth Flats

The last time I checked in with the 12South neighborhood about the controversial "TwelveSouth Flats" development in February, frustrations with the developers were running high. We are less than a week away from a community meeting (Monday, June 4, 6:30p-8:00p, 2415 12th Av S), sponsored by H.G. Hill Realty and Southeast Venture. According to developers, the meeting will "represent the official launch" of TwelveSouth Flats during which they will provide "the first public viewing of the project" and "answer questions" (no word on whether they will invite feedback).

Flats plan falling flat?
Even though the developers don't mention saying they welcome community feedback on their concept, several 12South residents expressed the wish that Southeast Venture and H.G. Hill Realty make even the most modest effort to consider a few changes. And a number of them wrote letters to the developers with the modest request.

Ken Winter, the head of "Save Our Urban 12TH", responded to developers' comments in the local daily in an early April email:

the developer met with us to explain what the project would be, not to explain its fit with precedent or to engage the community with ideas. Never did the developer acknowledge the neighborhood's history or prior developers' plans and intentions....

One hundred new residents with automobiles on an already congested 12th Avenue directly contradicts the 2008 community plan for mixed use (commercial) areas: "Discourage auto-oriented development and land uses near neighborhoods. Rather, encourage development and land uses that cater to the neighborhood, create a lively streetscape, and are located in buildings that are massed, scaled and oriented to create a pedestrian-friendly environment."

In sum, the developers are importing a one-size-fit-all, post-2007 real estate crash, inventory item (upscale residential rentals) from major, four lane "corridors" and "collector streets" (11th Av/Gulch, 1st Av/Rolling Mill Hill, Jefferson St/Germantown, 8th Av/Melrose, etc) and uncritically imposing it on a narrow, street-scaped, two-lane traffic-jammed "artery," which happens to be a neighborhood business district and commuter route to the county line. Seventy-seven units per acre is an aggressive imposition.

The 12South community leaders say that they do not object to the developers maximizing their profits. They simply wish that the latter would do so more collaboratively with the neighborhood. Concerns expressed included that TwelveSouth Flats represents more of a drift toward the scale of Green Hills or The Gulch and that it would not blend with the small-business atmosphere that has enhanced 12South's quality of life.

One person expressed the sense that it was mutually beneficial to have the neighborhood allied with developers rather than presenting something that puts them at odds with unconsidered growth. Another leader observed that some demolition had already started on the site in late April on a Sunday, which may have been a violation of Metro ordinances. She considered the demo crew's expressed indifference to her questions about it a metaphor for "for the mindset of H.G. Hill and Southeast".

Another concern expressed is traffic impact. In May a discussion started about overflow traffic from an existing restaurant called "Urban Grub" and recurring problems: residents unable to park on their own streets or blocked into their driveways by parked cars, parking in alleys and on sidewalks, valets who peel out of parking lots to get owners' cars back to them, and late-night bar patrons who absent-mindedly step out into high-volume traffic. Some residents worry that the restaurant planned for TwelveSouth Flats will make an already "unsustainable" traffic problem much worse unless developers listen to the community.

But if developers have refused to acknowledge the community's concerns in the past, should we expect anything more from next Monday's "community" meeting?

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