Tuesday, August 9, 2011

University District Development

Next Monday residents of the New Chauncey Neighborhood will meet to receive an update from members of the Purdue Research Foundation and our Neighborhood Leadership Team on the Seng-Liang Wang Hall building planned for construction between Northwestern Ave. and Hayes St. The meeting will be held Monday, August 15th at 5:00pm in the Kurz Purdue Technology Center at 1281 Win Hentschel Blvd. (Across the street from International Sports.)

This will be followed by a Wednesday evening (7:00pm) presentation by PRF on the Wang ("Wong") 516 Northwestern Ave. mixed use building before the Area Plan Commission in the County Office Building.

If I were to vote up or down just on Wang Hall, I would vote "no". Phi Kappa Tau was not demolished to create space for a Power and Energy Devices and System Research Complex. This was originally to be constructed in Discovery Park. PKT was demolished in order to expand an already taxed Northwestern Parking Garage. Parking is an issue in the neighborhood. It stands as a symbol for all other development issues (trash, noise). It is an issue we both fought and won last winter with the defeat (5-2) of Ordinance #27-10, which would have changed height and parking requirements in the Chauncey Village and along Northwestern Ave.

I would vote "no" in order to protect the single family homes on Hayes St. which provide a buffer between the higher and taller buildings of the Purdue campus and the rest of the New Chauncey neighborhood.
I would vote "no" in order to protect the single family homes on Hayes St. which are a part of the Chauncey-Stadium National Register Historic District. My interest in historic preservation is a matter of public record. This block, and most of the Chauncey-Stadium neighborhood, is iconic. It reminds us that there was a time before the commercialization of higher education, a time when multi-class, multi-generational near campus neighborhoods were the norm.

But I hope I will be able to vote "yes" on the 516 Northwestern Ave. PD (Planned Development) when it comes before city council.

We have a chance to do something significant here, something great.

Beginning with the May 2009 council resolution asking for a New Chauncey Land Use Plan (yes, it was that long ago) the neighborhood has sought to avoid the disaster that is development south of State St.
Our opposition to Wang Hall, based on exactly that fear, led to a fortunate exchange of letters between Carl Griffin and Joseph Hornett and then on to the establishment of a small working group facilitated by Jim Schellinger. Those discussions moved beyond the immediate issue of Wang Hall to the larger issue of neighborhood redevelopment, to the Purdue commercial master plan, to retail development along Northwestern Ave, and to our acknowledgement of the existing medium and high density housing already in place in New Chauncey.

Our conversation concluded with an initial draft (6/20/11) of a memorandum of understanding between the Purdue Research Foundation, the City of West Lafayette, and the New Chauncey Neighborhood Association with the end in mind of creating a land use element within the Unified Zoning Ordinance which will establish land use restrictions, architectural requirements, and development standards to be used for real estate development by an entity within the foundation which I will call here for convenience (the title borrowed from other examples of this type of effort) the University District Development Corporation.

With the New Chauncey Land Use Plan Steering Committee resurrected by the APC, the Area Plan Commission collected data on rental status and building conditions within the neighborhood, and helpfully assembled several options for future land use in New Chauncey. The various stakeholders on the steering committee are in the process of sharing those options with their constituencies.

For its part, the city is considering the expansion of the Levee Tax Increment Financing District to help fund neighborhood improvements within the so-called University District.

Suggestions of existing models of University District Alliances were shared by the APC (University of Minnesota), PRF (Notre Dame), and NCNA (University of Arkansas - Little Rock).

With the the construction of a land use plan, with the proposal of historic districts, and with a development "entity" possible, the debate over the size and shape of Wang Hall has led to the opportunity to achieve something special for the city, the university, and its near campus neighborhood. There is so much to do and so much could go wrong, but what if, what if, we are able to pull off this sort of partnership here? The hope often offered by the presenters of the Sasaki Master Plan to community members for a preeminent near campus neighborhood might be realized.

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