There's been a lot of buzz about the plans for the old Vickers Automotive building and the surrounding properties at the corner of Woodstock Rd and Canton St. The developer, Miller Lowry, has updated the plans once ahead of the first official neighborhood meeting last week and I would think more updates are coming given some of the neighborhood responses on the NUR facebook page. Most of the objection centers around the scale of the building along Woodstock Rd and it being too tall. There have been several positive comments on the section fronting Canton Street.
Here's my take on key areas of the project:
Walkability (A)- The fact that this is mixed-use with restaurant/retail on the first floor and residential (owner occupied) above is fantastic. It builds on the blossoming walkability of our neighborhood. The General Theory of Walkability states that a walk must be Useful, Safe, Comfortable & Interesting. I think this one hits on all levels. The last thing you want here is somethign single use such as an office park where 100% of morning and afternoon trips will be by car.
Scale (B) - The building setbacks are very appropriate for the area and it definitely does a good job engaging the sidewalks and the streets. I'm not height averse but I do think the Woodstock Rd section should be terraced back a touch. That said, one thing that height does is create enclosure which automatically tells drivers to slow down as they percieve more friction. Slower, more cautios drivers make for safer roads which in turn improve walkability.
Design (B+) - The renderings look to be high quality and would be notably nicer than the current buildings on the properties. I personally love the look and think it would complement the area well. If everything looked the same, we'd live in a pretty boring place. The only reason I'm not giving this an A is the scale of the building along Woodstock. Also, I'm not in the camp to preserve for preservation's sake. If the new is improving significantly on the old, I'm all for it. As Andres Duany is known to say.. "You have to break a few eggs to make an omlette."
Traffic (B) - I think the traffic fears are a little exaggerated. The retail is pretty light and there are 69 condos planned. First, a lot of car trips will be foregone because of the inherent walkability of the neighborhood. It would be great if the Corner Grocery was actually a "grocery" but maybe sometime it will be. I'm not sure if the road on the west side of the development is still in the plans but it would actually be a huge benefit for those who live on Thompson Pl as they could avoid the left turn onto Canton Street that is a bit of a challenge at times.
Parking (A) - I love that a good deal of the parking for the residential will actually be underground. There is still some surface parking but any effort to kill surface parking is highly desirable. I'm making an assumption here but I'm thinking that if you take a story away from the development, it will kill the below ground parking and will give us more surface parking which would be TERRIBLE for our Historic District. The lack of surface parking eliminates the missing tooth syndrome that so many downtowns suffer from. Think of the parking lot at the intersection of Canton St and Magnolia at Pastis. That intersection would be notably improved if we had frontage instead of a parking lot. Once again, the Vickers Village is doing a lot to improve walkability.
Ultimately, this will be a signature project for the north end of the Historic District and it is important that it be done right. Again, I think it get's a solid B in my book and I'd be happy to see this development right up the street for me.
Here are the most recent renderings from Miller Lowry. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.