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Oakwood Heights at CAR #2

January 22, 2008 8:01 pm by

The Commission of Architectural Review meeting began on time with about 25 people in attendence. Except for the Oakwood Heights condo proposal, the remainder of the 11 items on the agenda, if not trivial, seemed at least routine: removal of vinyl siding, replacement of exterior doors, construction of an addition, the painting of a facade. The commission ultimately voted unanimously to both deny the Oakwood Heights application to relocate 3626 East Broad Street and the current design proposal for the 33 condominiums.

Each of the smaller issues on the agenda were given their time and considered. The Memorial Child Guidance Clinic would like to add a sign to their building (aka “the old WRVA building”). The commission asked questions about potential scarring of this unique building and the color of the pole. Another applicant would like to add a 2-story addition to the back of a house; this was their 3rd time in front of CAR on this project. The issues raised included slope of roof, architectural details, all in relation to the original house and the forms of other structures in the area. A previously unpainted brick house in Carver had been painted (in violation of the City O&H guidelines) and then sold, and the new owner has to deal with this in trying to fix up their house.

The room filled up during this — 40+ people were in the seats when the Oakwood Heights project came up for discussion, though there were still a few empty seats. A camera man and reporter for channel 8 came in a few minutes before the most high profile applicant got up to speak, and stayed for the bulk of the architect’s presentation but left a good while before the community was able to put forth any questions or comments and before the commission reached any decision.

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Tyler Potterfield gave an overview of both the land and houses currently in the area and the issues at hand. There are two items being proposed related to this project, the relocation of the house at 3626 East Broad Street and the construction of the 33 condominiums. He declared the initial concern to be the new construction. On that, it was deemed appropriate to finish out the block, and that the proposed density is allowed by the current zoning code. Another issue is materials and fenestration. Potterfield had specific recommendations concerning details of the project, including removal of the below-grade wells as incongruous with the neighborhood and suggestions about the materials use along the more public facades of the building. On new construction, Pottefield stated that staff recomendation of a denial due to not enough of a response to the issues raised at the last meeting.

With regards to the relocation of the house at 3626 East Broad Street, relocation is to be considered as an alternate to demolition. It sounds like they have to consider demolition first, but I was a little unclear here as to what the thought process was or what the final suggestion or finding turned out to be.

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Speaking for the proposed Oakwood Heights condomium development, architect Spencer Dryser of Baskerville Architects gave an overview what appeared to be the same design as presented at last week’s CHA meeting, though there seemed to be more renderings of the buildings in the context of the existing houses and more detailed views of the units and facades. Stepping through the presentation and taking questions from the commission, the intent seemed to be to show that the new building fit with the scale and mass of the neighboring structures.

Issues raised by the commision include the potential for increased use of the alley, confusion about the traffic flow, materials and color use, and the sunken front yards. One of the commision menbers described the design as containing “many deal breakers”.

David Cooley, “at great personal and potentially tremendous professional risk” (said with some humor), stood to speak in favor of the project, to “speak in favor of development”. Cooley described the design as apparently within mass/scale/height requirements of the district, and said that the “design complements but does not copy” the existing housing. He went on to state, also, that the developers have responsibilities to the immediate neighbors which they seem to have disregarded. He would like “to see more neighbors, more people up here”. The neighbors and the neighborhood should be brought on board. Called on both the developer and the neighborhood to make concessions to each other.

Margaret Freund, the developer, stood to speak. “We have made a lot of concessions”: the buildings are lower than allowable height, they have reduced sellable square feet. She went on to say that “people moving into the nighborhood will be good for the neighborhood”, and that they will both carry through on the project and eventually win over the neighors.

Opposed: Bill Lafoon spoke in opposition to relocation of 3626 East Broad Street, a contributing structure in the Chimborazo National Historic District, “merely for the convenience” of the the applicant.

Bo Fairlamb, of the Neighbors for Compatible Development, speaking for friends and neighbors from the 3600 blocks of East Broad Street and East Marshall, said: there are rights, but there is also an obligtion to compatability. The alley will have traffic all day long. Every mature tree on the site will have to be removed. The facade and sunken front yards are incompatible. Jefferson Mews is an example of larger scale new development that matches the scale of the neighborhood, maintains the relationship to the streets, and which managed to save existing houses. He proposes restoring to the historic pattern of development, and showed the same detail of the 1925 Sanborn map that Potterfield showed. “Being part of the neighborhood starts with working with the neighbors.”

Other folks spoke, all in favor of new neighbors but concerned about:

  • the proposed density and traffic,
  • the demolition or relocation of 3626 East Broad Street,
  • the change on feel at the street level,
  • the loss of the mature trees, and
  • the lack of concern by the developer for the concerns of the neighbors.

The commission then discussed the presentations. One member led of by stating that they felt that relocation (of 3626 East Broad Street) is not warranted. Another said that the design itself, for a modern design, is too “machine” modern for the neighborhood. The amount of grading necessary is of concern. The design is not compatible with the existing block (“compatability is the operative word here”).

I may have better images from the presentation coming. I will post them in the comments if I can get anything.

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