Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Who Is Right?

A friend of mine lives in NoDa, and is being faced with a serious dilemma.  The issue in question is for the Mercury Development around the Neighborhood Theatre on approximately 3.5 acres.  Go here to see the site plan.  It calls for the construction of up to 260 apartment units to be built on that site. 

Density in NoDa is certainly something that the city wants, as there will be a light rail stop nearby on 36th Street.  Funny, the coming of rail to this town reminds me a bit of the movie "Blazing Saddles", and the rush to get the right land.

The issues here are several.  First, on the corner of the parcel in question is a house that has a deed restriction prohibiting it from being altered on the exterior, or moved.  The owner has the prospect of looking out the kitchen window into a 4 story parking garage.  Not too cool.  The developer has requested the Historic Landmark Commission make an exception and allow this house to be moved.  A potential suitable site within a few blocks has been found that could be suitable.  The Historic Landmarks Commission has passed a motion to not allow the house to be moved.

The next issue involves the property values of the houses directly across from the development.  Many are mill houses that owners have invested significant money to upgrade and restore.  The ambiance of a single family neighborhood will be eliminated by a structure up to four stories that will prohibit sunlight from being available in the afternoons to these owners.  The streets in question will become significantly more crowded with the potential insertion of up to 400 residential vehicles, not to mention the vehicles of guests.

The next issue is how does a property owner deal with the loss of the value of their investment?  One solution is to sell below market value and get out.  A second solution is to rent out the property and hope for a better market in the future.  No offense to renters, but they tend to not add to the fabric of a community as they are highly transitional.  So, does the developers rights to a financial gain from his investment come from the loss of value of the neighborhood?

The next issue involves "The Next Dilworth" principle.  That moniker has been applied to Plaza Midwood, Wesley Heights, Noda and Wilmore.  Driving through the streets will show that homes have been upgraded, some significantly, but all in a way that shows individual reinvestment in a  community that was in disrepair.  The rail line may very well tip the balance in favor of NoDa being that "Next Dilworth". 

The next issue will be sound issues.  The Neighborhood Theatre is not known for its sound containment.  An apartment complex surrounding that facility will certainly bring many complaints.  Speaking of The Neighborhood Theatre, the developer is going way out of his way to make sure the character of the commercial establishments remains intact, perhaps at the expense of the neighborhood.

This is a Downtown Blog, so what does this have to do with downtown, and what does this have to do with property values?  Everything!

When downtown was reinventing itself, the Fourth Ward went through as similar process.  As we look at the neighborhood today, we see a vibrant, walkable, livable neighborhood that shares high density with 23 single family homes.  The development was smart, and well thought out, with density located at the edges.  There is room for both. 

It is this balance of growth and respect for neighborhoods that contribute most to property values.

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