For part one, click on this link.
One of the challenges facing the Chain Works District is that it’s a little tough to plan out specifics when the construction timeline goes out over a decade. The renders of new buildings conceptualized as part of the redevelopment project may not look exactly as shown – in a lot of ways, they would best be described as placeholders. But, the zoning code proposed within the project’s PUD gives a pretty good idea of what a potential building would look like. The design standards can be found in Appendix C here.
The goal of the design standards is to establish a walkable, mixed-use neighborhood setting that builds on the existing industrial buildings and surrounding neighborhoods – growing without overwhelming. The design standards handle height, width, setbacks, buffer plantings, blank walls, building projections, the amount and spacing of doors and windows, porches and stoops, sidewalk width, the types of light poles allows, the “design speed” of streets – compared to Euclidean/use-based zoning, the emphasis isn’t on what’s taking place inside, but how it looks on the outside. Some might argue that it allows less creativity for architects, but it offers a lot more predictability for a multi-year development like Chain Works.
Even with the design standards, the project won’t be skipping the approvals process. New buildings and renovations that don’t conform to the initial proposed uses still have to go through Site Plan Review/Approval. Interior renovations not visible from public roads do not have to go through SPR, which is consistent with most of the city’s neighborhoods. But one step that may potentially be avoided by the PUD/PDZ are frequent trips to the Board of Zoning Appeals.
Chantreuil | Jensen | Stark Architects, STREAM Collaborative and Randall + West all played a role in site planning and developing the zoning.
There are four “sub areas” as part of the code – CW1 (Natural Sub Area), CW2 (Neighborhood General Sub Area), CW3 (Neighborhood Center Sub Area), and CW4 (Industrial Sub Area).
CW1, as the Natural Sub Area, is where land is planned to be left unaltered, or allowed to revert to “a natural state”. Some of this is due to technical issues like topography, as some of it is due to environmental features such as the presence of old-growth woods. CW1 is the most restrictive zone, allowing only passive recreational use, trails and stormwater management. New structures can only serve those purposes – sheds, park restrooms, pavilions, gazebos, and at most a visitor’s center, the sum of which may not cover more than 2% of the total area, with no single building over 2,000 SF, and nothing more than one floor / 15 feet.
CW2 is the Neighborhood General Sub area, and one of the two zones slated to host the majority of new development. The intent here is detached single-family homes, row-houses and small apartment buildings. Total area coverage of more than 60% is prohibited, and height is limited to 4 floors, except when built on a hill, in which case there may be another 1-2 floors on the downhill side, as long as it’s consistent with CW3. Street trees have to be provided on at least 60% of the length of new and existing streets in CW2, at intervals no more than 40 feet.
Apart from general housing, the CW2 code would allow for senior housing, daycares, home-office, small-scale retail (less than 2,500 SF), nursery schools/day-cares and B&Bs.
CW3 is higher-density mixed-use – larger-scale office space, larger-scale retail and the same residential uses allowed in CW2. Most commercial and assembly/factory uses are allowed (but no adult uses – in any zone, in fact). Plazas are allowed along with green space, and the maximum height allowed is 6 floors, with 1 more on the downhill if on a slope, and only 4 floors permitted with 2 floors on the downslope if within 100 feet of Route 96B. Total area coverage is permitted up to 80%, and a vegetation buffer of 30 feet is required if adjacent to residential properties bordering the CWD. The street trees rule in CW2 also applies here.
CW4 consists of industrial uses and utilities/storage space, 2-4 floors. 90% area coverage is allowed, and there has to be one shade tree planted and kept healthy for every 10 parking spaces. There is no minimum parking requirement for CW4, or any of the zones.
One issue brought up in review is that the code specifies that any one floor can’t be more than a certain height, but it would be better if they specified a maximum height for the first floor, and then a max height for each subsequent floor. For instance, instead of a max of 18 feet, which could create a 72-foot, 4-story building in CW2, the draft could be improved by saying 18 feet on the first floor, 12 feet on each upper floor.
Several types of “thoroughfare assemblies” are displayed in the document, specifying what’s permitted in each area. This is where the design speed, sidewalk and pavement widths, and parking and street-scaping details come into play. These include streets, alleys, industrial access roads and even a woonerf.
So that briefly sums up about 33 pages of code details. Most of those won’t come into play until new structures are proposed – the streetscape will be developed as phase one is under construction, and more when further build-out occurs. Speaking of phase one, let’s take a look at that.
Phase one consists only of renovations to existing buildings, four of them. Buildings 33 and 34 would be renovated for new industrial uses per the CW4 code, and Buildings 21 and 24 would be renovated into an office building, and a mixed-use office and apartment building per the CW3 code.
Building 21 becomes a 43,340 SF office building – new glass and a paint job are the biggest exterior changes. Parking would be on adjacent surface lots (page 2-27, DGEIS).
Building 24 is the only building that gets an addition in phase one – 18,520 SF of new space on the top floor, a “penthouse addition” to the existing 111,050 SF space. The addition and the existing second to fourth floors would house 70 to 80 residential units in approximately 96,300 SF, in a potential mix of configurations ranging from studio to 4-bedroom units, but mostly it’s intended to be 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom units (page 2-25, DGEIS). The remaining 33,270 SF would be commercial office space. Parking would be on adjacent surface lots.
The industrial space envisioned for Buildings 33 and 34 requires minimal renovation, according to the DGEIS (page 2-33). Combined, they offer about 170,600 SF of industrial space, for manufacturing, warehousing, or related uses. Most parking (110 spaces) will be on adjacent surface lots, with a little more (15 spaces) created by the removal of Building 6A, and another 95 overflow spaces shared with CW3 structures. Part of the logic is that since workers and residents use parking spaces at different times (working the 9 to 5, vs. those who do their 9 to 5 in other parts of the city), they can share parking spaces somewhat.
Part 3 will take a look at some of the project impacts.