We’re not surprised to see more pigs at the trough of the Preston Center Garage plan, as the greed is expected, though not astonishing.
Last week I wrote about the final Preston Center Garage plan delivered to the city by Walker Consultants and the later filing by Robert Dozier’s Ramrock Real Estate LLC.
As a quick roundup, the consultants explored two options – one fully underground parking with a full park on top and one compromise option where parking was underground with half the city block an at-grade park and the other half being developed into a high-rise (likely residential).
The second column broke-down Dozier’s filings with the city, showing the dramatic escalation since he proposed a single high-rise back in August 2019. The proposed PD-314 rewrite and accompanying development plan called for three high-rises totaling some 697,245 square feet with zoning for 100 percent lot coverage.
When I wrote those columns, I didn’t have the landscape plan. Now I do. The “perimeter street” plan remains still outstanding. The city planner said, “I have requested that the representative provide the street section plan.”
The Timeline of Greed
What’s become fascinating is the timeline. On August 9, 2019, Dozier presented his single high-rise plan during council member Jennifer Gates’ public meeting on the garage. Put mildly, Dozier’s plan was not embraced by those attending (without something to gain from it).
Dozier’s rewrite of PD-314 was originally written assuming city approval by the end of 2019 (4-ish months after the August 9 presentation. That rewrite called for unlimited height, unlimited stories, and unlimited floor area ratio (FAR) with 100 percent lot coverage. An enormous upsizing from his single high-rise presented months earlier.
Then we see Dozier’s development plan calling specifically for three buildings, two tiny “mini-parks” and the aforementioned 697,245 square feet of buildings. It was dated April 24, 2020.
Landscape Plan Exposes Project Swell
BUT, the landscape plan sees something else emerge (click here to see the plan). The landscape plan was dated March 16, 2020. While it doesn’t delineate where the high-rises will be placed on the lot, we notice that the proposed hotel is only 86,794 square feet versus the 163,510 square feet proposed a month later – that’s 10,000 square feet short of doubling in a month.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the parking situation shows that adding those 76,716 square feet to the hotel added just seven additional parking spaces. As detailed in the rewritten PD-314 ordinance, neither plan increases the existing 800 spaces available for the public – a keystone of the Preston Road Area plan unanimously supported by the authors of the plan – including those representing Preston Center.
The (City’s) Landscape Plan
Above is the March 16 landscape plan. You can see the perimeter of the “building area” appears to be a grey frame of landscaping – there are black “dots” signifying trees and various planting beds. But here’s the thing, aside from the two “mini-parks” intruding at the top of the rectangular “building area”, everything else would be on remaining city land – and more than you think.
Here’s a close-up of the Berkshire Lane and Westchester Drive corner. You can see the inner “L” of the mini-park that intrudes on the existing full-block parking garage footprint. The rest of those grey patterns that define other hardscape and landscape are a combination of today’s sidewalks and an approximately 13-foot intrusion into the roadway. At the top, you can see a vertical line from the northern neighbor’s existing planting area running south – noted as 26 feet. The problem is that there are approximately another 13 feet from that endpoint to the existing sidewalk – I took a tape measure and measured it.
That’s right folks. To maintain a greedy 97.6 percent lot coverage, Dozier’s plan calls for not only being gifted the garage land from the city, but encroachment onto existing roads. This effectively narrows Berkshire, Westchester and Luther seemingly to a single lane (Kate Street may survive as two lanes – hard to tell). Because you’d want to add 697,245 square feet of hotel, office and apartments and narrow the surrounding streets [dripping with sarcasm].
2.5 Inch Trees
Oh, and those trees? You may just be able to make out the note near the top of the page – “Medium canopy, 2.5” CAL.” CAL means “caliper” or the diameter of a tree’s trunk. Roughly, 2.5 inches is a fun-size Halloween candy bar.
A 2.5-inch caliper tree offers pretty minimal shade canopy – for decades. Compare that with the Hopdoddy corner’s pair of proposed high-rises. They will have 20 trees of 5-inch caliper and 19 trees of 4-inch caliper.
Speaking of Hopdoddy, there are 39 trees proposed (with only two street frontages) whereas this entire city block has 45 considerably-smaller trees spread on four sides. Luther Lane gets the same nine trees as the Hopdoddy-adjacent apartment building would place in their alley.
About the only positive thing I can say is that the proposal lists seven total curb cuts for driveways – the current garage has double that number. But the seven will be distributed on all four sides whereas the existing 14 are on two sides. Also, unlike recent projects I’ve reviewed, instead of loading areas located interior to their respective building footprints, here there will be five on-street loading areas on three of its four border roads.
Between the increased traffic, surrounding head-in, angle parking, five on-street loading zones and driveways, drivers will need to remain focused.
Who Does This?
Lau Tzu said, “There is no greater disaster than greed.” The more this plan unfolds, the truer those words become.
The accelerating smugness exhibited in these events and documents makes it clear that Dozier believes the city has no choice but to acquiesce to whatever he wants. But if Dozier wants a zero-sum game, I suggest the city play that game and refuse to approve any action concerning the garage for as many years, or decades, as it takes.