Posted on 05 December 2014.
The red dashed line outlines the proposed ‘catalyst site’ surrounding Town Hall.
By JONATHAN COX
Davidson officials are continuing to look at ideas for a possible “catalyst project” on land around Town Hall in downtown Davidson. The project’s goal is to increase the density of retail, office, and residential buildings downtown. But, town officials are wondering, what is the right mix of shops, offices, and apartments?
Rory Dowling of the University of North Carolina School of Government was at the Town Board’s work session Tuesday to present several tentative designs for site. His presentation came as part of the town’s partnership with UNC in a “Development Finance Initiative” to study the site.
UNC researchers have studied possible uses for the space between Mooney’s Corner and the intersection of Jackson and South Main streets, while also analyzing broader market trends around Davidson.
With the proper mix of building types, town commissioners and officials hope the catalyst site will serve as a bridge linking businesses along Main Street and South Main Street, while also encouraging private investment in the area.
The next steps will be to create a “schematic massing study,” a rough design of the size and scale of buildings area, and then to recruit a developer able to make the design a reality. Town officials say they hope to issue a request for proposals from developers in May 2015.
OFFICES, RETAIL, OR RESIDENTIAL
The plans presented at Tuesday’s meeting are still tentative, but the catalyst site could include two multi-story buildings that provide retail, residential, and office space. Additional parking also is a key element, including a possible parking garage with roughly 400 spaces. The first story of each building would be retail, while the upper stories could be either office or residential.
A market analysis conducted by UNC in August found the town is short on retail, office space, and multi-family residences (See Oct. 30, 2014, “Consultant urges town to add retail”). More shops would mean that residents would have more options for shopping locally, instead of going to neighboring towns to spend money.
Private developers won’t be the only ones making changes to the catalyst site – the town’s long-range plan calls for turning the Town Hall building over the fire and police departments, while relocating town offices elsewhere (See more information in the Nov. 19, 2014, work session agenda .)
The town owns this parcel along Jackson Street, across from Town Hall, where it wants to add angled, back-in parking. (David Boraks/DavidsonNews.net)
More stores and offices downtown means more demand for limited parking spaces. The town plans to address this by expanding parking on Jackson Street and building a parking garage at the northern end of the Town Hall area site.
The board has not decided on the details of the garage. It’s not known, for instance, whether parking will be paid or free, but commissioners agree that additional parking in the area is necessary.
“We’ve got to accommodate all the new demand on the site, as well as existing demand,” Michael Lemanski, director of UNC’s Development Finance Initiative, said of the parking situation around the catalyst site.
Commissioner Brian Jenest agreed that with most people coming downtown by car additional parking is necessary: “We don’t have rail, we don’t have buses, we have a lot of people driving here,” he said.
Along with the parking garage, the town is also planning to add parking along Jackson Street to help ease the downtown parking crunch. The current draft of the Capital Improvement Plan allocates $55,000 for the construction of parking along the road. The plan calls for 16 additional spaces – 11 back-in and 5 parallel. The spaces would be added on town-owned land. (The town hopes money for the Jackson Street parking will come from the developer of Mooney’s Corner, at 212 S. Main St. The town sued the developer in October, saying it’s owed nearly $70,000 the developer agreed to pay instead of providing parking for the building.)
FINDING THE HAPPY MEDIUM
The UNC School of Government estimated how much square footage the town should allocate for retail, residential, and office space, depending on what the town wants to prioritize. Is the best option to build more offices, fewer apartments? More apartments, fewer offices? Or a mix of both? Whatever the town’s decision, its options are limited by zoning restrictions, parking requirements, and market demand. The following are estimates of possible square footage, depending on what building use the town wants to emphasize
MAXIMUM OFFICE SPACE
Retail – 25,000-30,000 sq ft.
Office (private) – 45,000-50,000 sq ft.
MAXIMUM RESIDENTIAL SPACE
Retail – 25,000-30,000 sq ft.
Residential – 100,000-110,000 sq ft.
Retail – 25,000 – 30,000 sq ft.
Office – 22,500 sq ft.
Residential – 80,000 sq ft.
All these square footage estimates assume that the town will reserve 12,500 sq ft. of the Catalyst Site for offices as well as fire and police departments.
The catalyst site project is still in preliminary stages, town officials said, but the town plans to hold public information sessions to hear residents’ thoughts on how the catalyst site should be developed.
While the project could bring major changes to downtown, commissioners hope to leave some things, such as the availability of public space, unchanged.
Speaking about the Knox Court area and the Davidson Farmer’s Market grounds, commissioner Jenest said, “Let’s not lose sight of how important public space is.”
See the full presentation on land use around the catalyst site.
Oct. 17, 2014, “Town sues Mooney’s Corner developers over parking payment”