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Council sends Lodger request back to Planning Commission

A proposed high-rise on the Downtown Mall could end up being shorter.

At the developer’s request, the City Council sent Heirloom Development’s special-use permit request for a 101-foot-tall, mixed-use building back to the Planning Commission during its meeting on Monday.

The council voted to honor Heirloom’s request on a 3-2 vote with Councilor Wes Bellamy and Mayor Nikuyah Walker dissenting.

Developer Jeff Levien needs a permit to increase the allowable height and density for the project from 70 feet and 24 units to 101 feet and 134 units.

L.J. Lopez of Milestone Partners, Heirloom’s local representative, requested the opportunity to bring a proposal to the Planning Commission that separated height and density so that the panel could approve one or the other.

The proposed structure would sit on Market Street on the current site of The Artful Lodger, The Livery and other small businesses. If a building permit is approved, the existing buildings will be demolished.

In November, the Planning commission voted 5-1 to recommend approval, despite frustrations that the number of units wasn’t finalized and that the developer wouldn’t say if any would be affordable.

“This ain’t solving the need for workforce or affordable housing,” Councilor Kathy Galvin said.

Lopez said that the maximum possible for the site would be 24 affordable units at 101 feet and 11 at 70 feet. Because of logistics with construction, he said it will likely be a total of 13 to 17 units. Of those, four would be on site and the rest would be off-site or compensated with a payment into the Affordable Housing Fund.

“Without a final design, it is difficult to confirm and commit,” he said.

Councilors were also concerned that such a tall building would change the character of the Downtown Mall.

“I think this particular area is very sensitive for something this big,” Councilor Mike Signer said.

Lopez requested to split the two aspects of the permit request and make one about density and another about height. He plans to submit new information to the Planning Commission with a plan focused on the additional density without a taller building.

The permit would also require Heirloom to create a protective plan for the building at 110 Old Preston Ave., which was constructed in 1949 and sits behind Lighthouse Studio and the Vinegar Hill Theatre. The plan would cover safeguards and monitoring procedures for the building during construction.

The plan must, at a minimum, include a baseline survey of the building, including written descriptions and visual documentation. It must include work with a third-party structural engineer.

The plan would also include seismic monitoring procedures and any other measures recommended by an engineer.

Heirloom is under contract to purchase the Lodger property, which is owned by Market Street Promenade LLC and valued at $3.2 million.


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