In Part One, you learned about the final plan to be delivered to the city by the Preston Center Task Force. It’s been two years in the making and cost $300,000 to produce a plan with little substance and holes a developer could drive a truck through.
Here in part two, we’ll finish out by reporting on the recommendations for development in the area.
Mixed Use, Not Mixed Income
There’s lots of talk about walkability, and an equal amount talk about luxury housing product. This means that just like today, people who live in the area don’t generally work in the area. An infinitesimal number of Preston Center workers walk to work today, and luxe-only development assures that will not change. Apparently walkability isn’t for area cashiers, cooks, waiters or firemen/women.
The vibrancy claimed to be the goal will not happen without housing that’s affordable to those who also work in the area. Without it, what we’ll get is a plastic Disneyland that comes to life with the flick of a switch. We’ll also have the added traffic as those workers commute in for their shifts. Lose-lose.
West Village North
Meeting attendees were treated to pictures of West Village’s 4-6 story residential with ground floor retail buildings with that being a stated goal. Fine, but how do you get there? We don’t.
There are no developer incentives to build these kinds of structures. In many cases it would mean a voluntary downzone of their property (unlikely).
It was then pointed out that the plots in Preston Center that currently have single story retail don’t have the space to build the parking required by a multi-story building. So how in the heck are these Podunk lots going to suddenly sprout the fairly large 4-6 story mixed-use structures seen in West Village? Had the owners of these small lots been willing to sell to a larger developer, wouldn’t it have happened?
And with the potential of a life-altering park smack in the middle of Preston Center, what owner in their right mind would sell before the substantial jump in property values that would bring?
Compounding this problem, I’ve pointed out many times that the reason Preston Center East looks so much better than Preston Center West it has a single owner. A single owner wields the power to control the look of the whole property … and last night it was pointed out that Preston Center East commands double the rent of the dilapidated West.
If Preston Center West wants to get its act together, they should come together as a group and select an architect to design a holistic area design. It can be detailed down to the individual plot or a set of binding architectural principals. Once agreed upon and approved, the unifying design would guide property redevelopment so that it matches the design of the rest of the center. If they don’t, let the hodge-podge begin.
Preston Center Parking Garage
I saved the best for last. Yes, everyone wants an underground garage with a park on top. Well, almost everyone. The task force couldn’t even bring a unanimous (or any other) vote from the landowners who control the garage’s fate or their general support for the idea.
While the audience was told there was no timeline before the merchants would revert to their own plan to add a third story and pretty-up the existing structure, the materials supplied placed their patience at two years.
NCTCOG announced they may be able to foot the bill for part of the garage expense (which two years later there’s no estimate on). They also announced that they’d soon release an RFP for consultants to develop the parameters of the parking garage. Their budget? $200,000.
Given the quality of the work done so far, I might answer the RFP, and if awarded the contract, knock it out in a weekend but not deliver the recommendations for a year … just so they can appreciate all the time it took.
Remember: High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement. If you’re interested in hosting a Candysdirt.com Staff Meeting event, I’m your guy. In 2016, my writing was recognized with Bronze and Silver awards from the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make? Shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org.