Carrboro Advisory Boards Comment on CVS Concept Plan

On May 5, the potential developer of 201 N Greensboro Street in Carrboro presented a concept plan to several of the town's advisory boards. As discussed in previous threads (1, 2, 3), the plan includes a two-story building with 11,800 sq ft of CVS retail space on the first floor and 11,800 sq ft of storage and office space on the second floor. Surface parking would dominate the northern half of the block along Short Street.

Presentation of a concept plan to the advisory boards is the required first step before submitting a conditional use permit application to the town. The developer has reportedly already submitted a permit application. The applicant will be required to respond in writing to the advisory boards' comments when they come back to the boards during the permit application review process.

Copied below are the comments on the concept plan from the Planning Board, the Appearance Commission, and the Transportation Advisory Board. Comments from the Environmental Advisory Board are forthcoming also included [added August 23, 2011].

Planning Board

General Comments

The current concept plan does not reflect the community's vision for development in downtown Carrboro. We encourage the developer to take a more creative approach by seeking guidance, in part, from Carrboro Vision 2020 and Downtown Carrboro: New Vision. These documents describe development in downtown Carrboro that focuses on medium-rise, mixed-use projects that are consistent with the town's character, protect the integrity of established neighborhoods, minimize negative environmental impact, and promote the comfort and safety of pedestrians and bicyclists.

We appreciate that the architect endeavored to use a small urban-scale building facade. The entrance at the corner of Greensboro and Weaver streets is a good placement, and the placement of the building at the Greensboro Street side of the site is appropriate in that it would help to provide definition to the de facto community square across the street. The developer has shown some attention to pedestrian engagement with the site, but has not committed to it.

There are examples of CVS developments that are better integrated into their urban context. The Eat Street Flats and Skyscape developments in Minneapolis, Minnesota, offer good examples of mixed-use projects with site designs that relate appropriately to the surrounding uses.

Specific Comments

1. We encourage the developer to design a mixed-use, medium-rise development. We are especially concerned that the current concept plan will result in a project that essentially involves a single use (ie, a single retail establishment on the ground level, and storage/office space on the second level primarily for use by that retail establishment).

a. The community's vision for downtown is to "build up, not out" and "increase the density of commercial property" (Vision 2020 policy 3.21) and to encourage "a variety of appropriate residential developments...in the downtown especially as part of mixed-use developments" (Vision 2020 policy 3.28). For example, a mixed-use, medium-rise development might include a building that rises to 3 or more stories at the Greensboro Street right-of-way, with retail on the first level, office space on the second level, and affordable residential space on the upper level(s).

2. Pursue strategies that reflect current trends in green design and construction, including but not limited to the strategies described in the Planning Board's "Green and Sustainable Buildings Checklist," provided as an attachment to this recommendation.

a. Vision 2020 policy 5.51 states, "The town should publicly promote every available means of energy conservation." The concept plan does not show any attention or commitment to existing well-known methods, such as LEED certification.

3. Maintain the integrity of the existing neighborhood on Center Street. The Downtown Neighborhood Protection District overlay along Greensboro Street and the mix of residential and commercial zones on the east side of Center Street appropriately reflect the importance of scale to the continuing residential uses of properties on the west side of Center Street.

a. Vision 2020 policy 2.11 states, "Infill development should take place in a manner that fulfills the town’s goals and enhances neighboring areas. The town should develop policies that mitigate the adverse impact of infill development, with particular consideration given to roads, sidewalks, and aesthetic compatibility." The proposed plan does not enhance the neighboring areas. It is not aesthetically compatible with existing retail development, which has a large amount of street-level glass and ability for people to see in and out of stores.

b. Vision 2020 policy 2.22 states, "Where development is deemed acceptable, there should be well defined dense development with areas of well preserved open space." The proposal is low-density and destroys existing treescape, and the only open space provided is for parking.

c. Vision 2020 policy 2.31 states, "The Town should encourage developers to apply adopted downtown design guidelines when planning and building new structures in the downtown area." We also recommend that the developer read Downtown Carrboro: New Vision.

d. Vision 2020 policy 3.21 proposes to "accommodate additional square footage by building up, not out." The concept plan replaces the existing single-story CVS with a larger ground-floor footprint and primarily storage on the second story, when 3 or 4 stories could be easily accommodated on the site.

4. In the northwest portion of the development, eliminate the west row of parking spaces and replace with 3 parallel parking spaces to provide room for appropriate green space and screening for the remaining historic mill houses.

a. New Vision states, "Public spaces, on the other hand, are complex. They are designed for people. Therefore, great emphasis is placed on pedestrian safety and comfort" (p. 16). The report proposes to "eliminate some of the driveways [on Weaver Street], which will improve traffic flow" (p. 23). The concept plan does not have well-designed public space and seems mostly designed for car parking. The creation of a high-volume driveway, essentially a new street running north-south through the middle of the site, will make it that much more dangerous for pedestrians, and contradicts the goal of elimination of driveways.

b. Concerns about parking could be mitigated by existing urban parking facilities, thus reducing the amount of spaces in the surface lot behind the structure. The CVS development in Davidson, North Carolina, is one example of how this could be achieved.

c. Vision 2020 policy 2.43 states, "Carrboro should plan and encourage the growth of tree canopies over roads to mitigate the heat and smog effect caused by superheated pavement." There are no street trees shown in the concept plan.

5. Provide additional bicycle parking, including covered parking. Adequate bicycle parking should be located near building entrances.

a. New Vision states, "Transit stops, information kiosks, lamp posts, signs, bicycle parking areas, benches, trash cans, outdoor gathering places, and public art sites are examples of potential identity opportunities" (p. 12). The concept plan does not show much in the way of bicycle parking, benches, gathering places, or art sites.

6. If existing houses will be removed, preserve and relocate them, perhaps for reuse by Habitat for Humanity or a similar organization.

a. New Vision states, "The preservation of buildings with architectural merit was a priority for most charrette participants. ...Every effort should be made to facilitate their restoration" (p. 7). Vision 2020 policy 5.41 states, "The town should encourage the reduction of waste materials in the course of new construction or renovation." The developer’s plan to destroy mill houses is not consistent with the town's vision.

7. Recycle materials from any demolished structures.

8. Ensure that a minimum of 60% of the elevation of any street-facing facade consists of windows. Avoid using window boxes in place of true windows.

a. The 60% glass requirement in the architectural standards is intended to provide transparency in the downtown districts both for added safety and to enhance a feeling of community. Window boxes defeat this purpose. While they are acceptable, they are not building transparency.

9. Avoid using brick-filled window spaces, especially on any street-facing facade. If the desire is to show appropriate historical style and scale, ask the architect to research the many good solutions to this issue that do not involve faking windows with brick.

a. New Vision states, "Interior lighting, from ground floor and upper level windows as shown in this photo, provides warm, radiant light that welcomes walkers" (p. 15). The concept plan is lacking the windows and nonstorage usage on multiple floors needed to meet this goal.

b. New Vision suggests, "articulate base of building" (p. 9), highlighting an entrance example. The concept plan shows simple flat doors like a warehouse on the sides of the building, which is not consistent.

10. Relocate the dumpster to the north side of the property, to the left of the north driveway entrance, to provide a pleasant outdoor gathering area where the tables are shown, and to avoid creating an eyesore on Weaver Street.

11. Ensure that entrances to upper floors relate to the correct pedestrian orientation.

12. In order to create an inviting presence on the corner of Greensboro and Weaver streets, consider providing curved steps from the lower sidewalk to the upper sidewalk at the entrance. This would replace the retaining wall shown on the concept plan, which creates a barrier to pedestrian traffic.

Appearance Commission

The Appearance Commission Advisory Board reviewed the “concept plan” for 201 North Greensboro Street property and had the following comments/suggestions:

  1. Additional glazing should be added on the 1st floor or shadow box windows at the least on the Weaver Street side of the building and on the Greensboro Street side (Weaver Street end). This is the most visible corner in town, and having he effective back/windowless end of the building facing the street is not acceptable.
  2. Move the truck loading area towards Short Street- away from the Weaver Street “sitting area.”
  3. Relocate the dumpster to a more ideal location versus being so visible from West Weaver Street and so close to the pedestrian “sitting area.”
  4. A more refined/vintage sign both on the building.
  5. Additional painted signage making it look like a row of vintage storefronts is encouraged. Faux signage would be considered murals/public art rather than effect signage allotment.
  6. Modify the exterior elevations on Greensboro Street to look like a row of vintage storefronts. Example: more variation to look like 100 block of Main Street with brick color variations, etc.
  7. Lighting should take into consideration the residential neighbors.
  8. Sidewalk should be plenty wide on Greensboro Street to accommodate pedestrians.

Transportation Advisory Board

The Transportation Advisory Board forwards the following comments to the 201 N. Greensboro St. applicant:

  1. Twenty-four hour parking is not appropriate across from residential.
  2. There needs to be pedestrian accommodations across N. Greensboro St.
  3. There will be a negative impact on downtown traffic as a whole.
  4. The TAB has concerns about the loading zone and its traffic impact.
  5. Bike parking should be located near the building.
  6. We do not believe that signal timing is the authority of the developer and thus should not be used to justify the development.

The Transportation Advisory Board recommends that in accordance with the Carrboro Bike Plan, the developer should widen N. Greensboro St. to accommodate the extension of the bike lane to Weaver Street. This will require the approval of NCDOT as well as an encroachment agreement.

Environmental Advisory Board

Lot & Site Development:

  1. Concern over traffic impacts in general.
    Recommendation to prohibit left turn onto Short St. from Greensboro St. northbound, and to make pedestrian improvements on Greensboro to facilitate crossing.
  2. Concern over 24 hour business at this location in close proximity to residential properties;
    Recommendation to create better buffer for adjacent residences. Need additional documentation of visual, light, and noise pollution control plans; consider planting, directional and LED lighting, and other measures to reduce these types of pollution.
  3. Concern that project does not demonstrate the degree of innovation and creativity warranted for this most prominent downtown site.
    Recommendation to develop the site as a model of green building in industry.
  4. Concern regarding limited pedestrian and people friendly streetscape/sidewalks.
    Recommend installing vegetated areas between sidewalk and street. Further attention should be given to pedestrian flow;
  5. Concern about tree protection and parking lot shading. The plan does not appear to meet land use ordinance requirements.
    Recommend that: a minimum of 50% of existing tree canopy be protected; that additional documentation be provided about how specimen trees will be adequately protected; and additional details regarding landscaping plan to create shading above the minimum required in the land use ordinance. The parking lot should utilize "green" parking lot features, per the EPA document "Parking Lot Resource Guide" available at http://mailman.informe.org/pipermail/watershedmanagers/attachments/20080306/6fbc8183/greenparking_508FINAL-0001.obj
    Permeable pavement should be included in the parking lot plans and specifications

Resource Efficiency:

Concern that the applicant has not demonstrated commitment to resource efficiency measures.

  1. Recommend that applicant demonstrate sustainability in demolition and construction—reduced waste streams, certified materials, reclaimed materials, green roof, photovoltaics etc.
    a. Use FSC certified wood products during construction. Use salvaged, recyclable, or rapidly renewable construction materials when available.
    b. Commit to recycling more than 50% of demolition waste if relocation/repurposing of building(s) is not feasible;
    c. Commit to exceeding Orange County construction waste disposal requirements;
    d. Source materials within a 500 mile radius;
    e. Post construction, need better demonstration of ability to minimize landfilled waste and handle and sort product waste streams. Document building design and management program to minimize store's waste. Program must include designation of interior space suitable for recycling all recyclable waste products and documentation of recyclables diverted from waste stream;
    f. Provide the community with a prominently promoted facility for safe disposal of expired and surplus pharmaceuticals in conformance with FDA rules to prevent pharmaceuticals from entering the water supply and waste stream.

Energy Efficiency:

  1. Concern that the applicant has not demonstrated commitment to energy efficiency measures.
    Recommend that the applicant demonstrate energy performance in building requirements to meet one or more of the following:
    a. Architecture 2030 goal of a 50 percent fossil fuel and greenhouse gas emission reduction standard, measured from the regional (or country) average for that building type. http://www.architecture2030.org/2030_challenge/targets.html
    b. AIA goals of integrated, energy performance design, including resource conservation resulting in a minimum 50 percent or greater reduction in the consumption of fossil fuels used to construct and operate buildlings (http://www.aia.org/fiftytofifty)
    c. LEED certification to achieve 50% CO2 emission reduction, or LEED silver certification

    Recommend specific energy saving features, including but not limited to the following. For those features not incorporated, an explanation of the financial or operational reasons why the feature was omitted from the design should be provided.
    a. Use of shading devices and high performance glass for minimizing heating and cooling loads
    b. Insulation beyond minimum standards;
    c. Use of energy efficient motors/HVAC;
    d. Use of energy efficient lighting;
    e. Use of energy efficient appliances
    f. LED or LED/Solar parking lot lighting (50-100% more efficient).
    g. Use of solar thermal
    h. Provision of onsite facilities (e.g. solar, wind, geothermal) that will provide a minimum of 5% or electricity demand associated with the project.

Water Efficiency:

  1. Concern that the applicant has not demonstrated commitment to water use efficiency measures. Recommend that harvested rainwater be reused

Stormwater Management:

  1. Concern that the applicant has not demonstrated commitment to stormwater management measures consistent with the Town's water protection and restoration goals and the Jordan Lake rules
    Recommend reduction in nitrogen loading from the site by at least 8% from the existing condition, as determined by the Jordan Lake Accounting Tool. The design should consider additional LID features, e.g., permeable pavement for low volume stalls, pedestrian areas, less impervious area/more vegetated areas (e.g., planters), a green roof.

Indoor Environmental Quality:

  1. Concern over indoor air quality. Recommendation to use low emitting materials.

Appearance/Architectural:

  1. Appreciate the applicant's efforts to design façade consistent with downtown development guidelines.
  2. Concern that the applicant has not demonstrated commitment to other architectural features consistent with livable and green building principles.
    Recommendations: 1) Windows that can be opened should be provided on the second floor;
    2) Natural lighting/daylighting should be improved/maximized for second floor office space;
    3) The HVAC system on second floors should be designed to allow for multiple zones

Endorsement of Planning Board Comments

  1. The EAB endorses the comments submitted by the Planning Board.

Tags: 

Total votes: 138

Comments

Damon, this is a really nice summary of the responses from the boards.  Thanks for doing the work to "report" on this much better than most of our local media.

Is the layout of the Concept Plan availble online anywhere? The
advisory board vcomments are great, but I'd like to be able to see the
site plan and elevations to which they refer.

Here are links to the materials provided to the joint advisory board for concept plan review:

I have added the comments of the Environmental Advisory Board to the body of the post.

 
 

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