The design and planning firm tasked with reinventing the Parkview Gardens neighborhood in University City unveiled a draft plan at a public workshop in U City Wednesday.
"In every planning process there always come a difficult meeting where you have to put some tough things on the paper and get feedback. This is the meeting. This is the tough meeting," said John Hoal, who's firm H3 Studio Inc. is the lead consultant on the project. "We do need some of your feedback."
Hoal said the plan is a 15 to 20 year vision. "This is not going to happen immediately, clearly the market is not here for it to all happen immediately."
"You have to be a little bit visionary, at the same time as being rather pragmatic in all of this," he added.
"You might hear some things today that kind of don't make sense in terms of, Can you implement them today? And the answer would be absolutely not. The community is not there, but he said it doesn’t mean the idea has to be taken off the table.
Hoal said in the coming years the demand for housing in University City will continue to grow, especially in the form of condos and apartments.
The draft plan the consultants presented on Wednesday evening envisioned a mixed-use residential type neighborhood in the Parkview Gardens area and in the Loop. That was the most popular option chosen by people who attended the last public workshop.
Parkview Gardens is a neighborhood within the boundaries of Olive, Delmar, Kingsland and Skinker.
While many residents like the idea of a grocery store in the neighborhood, they differ on where to locate it.
At the last public workshop, several residents said they'd like to see a Trader Joe's where the is on Olive. H3 Studio suggested that a better site might be on the corner of Skinker and Delmar boulevards. Many residents scoffed -- saying parking would be impossible, and that traffic in that area easily snarls.
At Wednesday's meeting Hoal said, "The good news is that there is an opportunity for a small supermarket in your neighborhood." But he said that supermarkets show more interest in the Skinker, Delmar intersection.
He said, "there is less likelihood," of a supermarket locating in any other area than at the corner of Skinker and Delmar.
"You need some serious high speed connectivity," said Hoal. "You have most of it in place, but you don't have the high speed connectivity." He said ideally the area would one day have free Wi-Fi available in public areas.
"You need to deal with the social digital divide," said Hoal. "You have a lot of low income areas in and around here by providing this infrastructure, you really can also begin to see this as community development, as well as economic development."
Hoal said a great idea would be to lay down fiber optic cable at the same time the Loop trolley is being built.
"All the main street (Delmar) is going to be ripped up to do the Loop trolley. You might as well put it down at the same time."
"This is the baseline infrastructure for a smart community," said Hoal.
Hoal said if the Parkview Gardens plan becomes reality -- it's inevitable that the Loop area is going to need more parking spaces. He suggested building two multi-level parking decks on either end of the Loop. one at the Skinker, Delmar intersection and the other one in the parking area behind Cicero's.
"They are the most logical space," he said. Hoal said the parking garages, are not, "a make or break" for the plan.
The plan calls for building taller structures in the areas around Parkview Gardens.
- 2-4 stories for buildings inside the Parkview Gardens neighborhood
- 3-8 stories for buildings along Delmar Blvd.
- 3-12 stories for buildings along Skinker Blvd.
- 3-5 stories for buildings along Olive Blvd.
Hoal said currently University City has too many single story buildings. "You need to be building higher."
It's expected this planning process will be completed by the beginning of next year.
Following the presentation of the draft plan, attendees broke up into small groups and pored over the plan for about 30 minutes. They then reassembled and shared their opinions with the consultant.
One woman was against building taller structures along Delmar Blvd. She worried they would block the views and impede sunlight from getting through.
Another woman said she was concerned about all the apartment buildings owned by Washington University, and wondered, "what they're going to be doing as we do this?"
"We need a new public, private paradigm for development," said a man. "We have to hold all developers to the highest possible standards for sustainable development."
Another man spoke against locating any building units on the current parking space behind Cicero's. He said the area was "too congested," and needed more parking spaces.