Enhance Community Character in Market Square Redevelopment

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Dear Mayor Ashman, Members of City Council, and Planning Commission.

We hope you’ve had a chance to read our letter written on behalf of the following organizations: DPZ, KCA, LCA, KDWG, KHT and the Villages.  We hope the impact of our collective voice is taken seriously as it required effort to reach consensus, speaks volumes to the community’s dedication and to our faith in the public process.  This is the first time in our recollection that so many different organizations agree wholeheartedly on recommendations moving forward.

We’ve always understood that our shared downtown would redevelop and evolve to become a denser, more vibrant, mixed-use and pedestrian-friendly place. That is the principal reason we support Kimco’s building that will boost our long-term economic and social viability.   At the same time, we are deeply committed to the realization of an excellent built environment that continues to foster community and pride.  As the first large-scale redevelopment project, this 6-story building will have a lasting impact and will set the standard for future development in our downtown. 

There is much we support in Kimco’s application.  We support a mixed-use, courtyard building, the general massing and density, the retail facing the new paseo, the beautification of the alley, the redesigned entry street and a LEED certified building.

It is our intention to contribute to the successful redevelopment of this parcel and it is in that spirit that we provide these following comments.  There are three important changes we believe are necessary and for which, our support of this application is wholly contingent on you requiring these reasonable modifications in exchange for your approval to move forward.

  1. Redesign the south-facing elevation along Center Point Way to shield the parking garage entirely and line the elevation with active uses. 
    • This building elevation that directly faces our community was designated by Kimco, in their Sketch Plan as a “primary circulation type”  that should be held to the highest pedestrian standard.   
    • Decorative screens proposed over garage openings are insufficient and will not disguise the fact that an unlined garage, without active uses faces one of our most important downtown streets.  Screening should not replace what deserves to be a street with active uses along the majority of its length.
    • Like your request of Kimco, we too support lining Kentlands Boulevard for the majority of its length with uses and this building should ideally have three active sides. However, context matters and if asked to prioritize residential units along Kentlands Boulevard in this location, or Center Point Way, we firmly encourage you to reconsider and designate Center Point Way as the more desirable, pedestrian-friendly one as it is the most direct connection to the east side.
  2. Redesign the south-facing elevation along Center Point Way to combine the parking access and loading access and make it less automobile-dominated.
    • Most zoning codes state that if an alley is provided, all services should be accessed from it, including parking and loading.  We cannot support a 40-50 foot opening in the building and sidewalk in that configuration.   There are solutions that may be a reluctant compromise that combines both access into one, yes one that prioritizes pedestrians over cars.
  3. Revise the building architecture to support Kentland’s authenticity.
    • We understand that architecture is not reviewed until the FSP stage but we do not want to miss the opportunity to provide architectural guidelines that would preclude addressing these points at a later stage in the process.  It is a start but not sufficient to guarantee a good design of course.
    • We do not advocate for a particular style of architecture, but we do advocate for a building fitting of its place and supportive of our identity.  The architecture will surely require more discussion. 
    • As new buildings tend to be larger than the old, they have an exaggerated impact on their context.