Thursday, February 16, 2017

Before we build the "The Rise"

While not in District #2, “The Rise” (100 S. Chauncey at State St.), with 675 bedrooms in three towers, 13, 15, and 16 stories tall, “throws shade”, literally, on our district. It will be the second of five high density, mixed-use projects now under consideration for the old Kingston-Chauncey Village.

We need to pause.

We have no land use plan to accompany State St. Redevelopment. Density in the village area of West Lafayette is growing beyond anything we might have imagined even as late as 2012 when we considered a proposed Northwestern and State St. five story “feature” project with a street level CVS. Before we go any further, I believe we need to answer the following three questions.

1) What are we going to save?

In 2014 Chandler Poole began work on a Village Historic District. The initial outline of the district would have included the Missouri Synod Lutheran “University Church”. Nothing came of that first “walk-about”. Chandler moved on.  What are we going to save?  The Miller Building? The Sullivan Bank? University Apartments? How will we save them? What will we do with the old buildings, the Kingston blocks, to their north? Developers are sometimes advised not to worry about historic preservation in West Lafayette. City fines are inconsequential at this scale. What are we going to save??

2) What will stay green?

The Area Plan Commission shared a “density concept plan” with the West Lafayette City Council in July of 2016. A concept only, but if implemented the sometimes threatened Tommy Johnston Park would disappear. The APC is discussing reducing R-3 minimum vegetative lot cover from 30% to 15%. What will stay green between the river and Purdue? Green roofs? Green walls?

The city needs a “green fee”. It needs a “park development fee” applied to high density developments in order to deal with the impact of those developments on the city’s park spaces and recreational facilities. It has been discussed in city government as part of the Parks Department master planning. It has not been implemented.  What will stay green?

3) What else will these projects cost the taxpayers?

How many TIF dollars will be dedicated to infrastructure improvements for “The Rise”? The Hub provoked a spirited discussion between city officials, the West Lafayette Redevelopment Commission, and Hub developers as to the amount of subsidy that project will receive. How many dollars will be committed to “The Rise”? 

To rephrase that question, when will we ever see any TIF dollars spent on neighborhood lighting, as called for in the New Chauncey Land Use Plan of 2012?

Thanks for the other concerns you have all shared with me. “It’s too big”. “Let’s go ugly early?” “It’s not monolithic, it’s trilithic.” (That’s my personal favorite; thanks Meg.) “It’s too close to the street”. “How are you ever going to stage that construction?” “You’re shrinking the streets AND raising the density?” “What about parking?” “THAT’s the signature building we want at the top of the hill?” “I know we’re desperate for tax dollars, but . . . “ “We suffer from low self-esteem.”  All fair enough.

But my three questions are: What will we save? What stays green? How much more will it cost?

We should stop and answer those three questions.

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