With a plan calling for no additional zoning variations and a design that looks to be a significant upgrade from the one presented just over two months ago, developers of the former Henninger Pharmacy property say that, if all goes well, they may be able to break ground on their Village Center Development before the year ends.
The Riverside Plan Commission reviewed the latest site plan for the development last Thursday, and received it with only minor questions regarding building materials and parking. Next, developers will run the new design past both the Landscape Advisory Commission and Preservation Commission in a joint session slated for Oct. 13.
“I can tell you that what was discussed at the [Plan Commission] meeting was very encouraging,” said Karen Layng, chair of the Plan Commission. “The general plan was much more in keeping with what we hoped for.”
According to Village Manager Kathleen Rush, the Plan Commission could act on approving the site plan as early as Oct. 24, when they next meet. While it will take some weeks after that to get final engineering drawings and building permits approved, Nick Mlade, the minority partner in the development said work on the development could proceed within the calendar year.
“It’s going to take a bit to get the detailed engineering drawings done and to get this out to bid,” Mlade said. “We’re not certain, but we might be able to start digging this fall.”
According to the latest plans submitted by developers to the village, the building retains certain elements introduced back in July. The building remains a combination commercial/residential project, with three ground-floor retail spaces and 22 condominiums on three upper floors. The Riverside village board approved a zoning variation last April that allowed a four-story building in the central business district.
The development also incorporates property directly north of the old Henninger Pharmacy, which is currently owned and used as office space by Dr. Samuel Chmell. Chmell and developers have worked out a tentative deal for that property, which will allow for expanded parking and allow an exit from the development on to Longcommon Road.
The second and third floors of the development would house six two-bedroom and three three-bedroom condominiums each. According to a fiscal impact study provided by the village’s zoning consultant Camiros Ltd., the two-bedroom units are expected to sell for $470,000, while the three-bedroom units would sell for $550,000.
Meanwhile, the fourth floor would house four three-bedroom “penthouse” condos, with an asking price, according to the fiscal impact study, of $900,000 each.
Where the new plan differs from previous ones is the design of the exterior, which responds to comments made to developers at an informal presentation before the Preservation Commission last July.
At that presentation, several commissioners took the development’s architect, Robert Kirk, to task for what they considered an uninspired design that relied too heavily on the nearby Arcade Building as a point of reference.
In the current design, Kirk reworked the Longcommon Road facade completely, transforming it into an asymmetrical unit that juxtaposes materials and colors and forgoes an over-reliance on uniform fourth floor dormers for a more picturesque effect.
The architect also took the advice of preservation commissioners by including an octagonal element at the corner, which references the water tower kitty corner from the building.
“[Kirk] really took to heart what they said, and the new design is reflective of that,” Mlade said. “We’ll have to see what the Preservation Commission has to say about this.”
The Burlington Street facade also uses asymmetry to soften the sheer length of that facade and uses color as a way to try to break up the facade into separate units. A clumsy recessed center bay was also ditched in favor of a more prominent central entrance to the condo lobby.
While the Plan Commission appeared to favor the new plan, it was not without its problems. A traffic review done by the James J. Benes Engineering firm questioned the number of parking spaces indicated in the architectural drawings, suggesting that five spaces currently reflected in the plan may not be useable spaces.
The number of parking spaces, however, would not be a major impediment to development, since developers could opt to pay a fee to the village in lieu of creating the required number of spaces. Presently, the cost to any developer to pay for parking spaces is $5,000 per space.
The traffic study also questioned whether trash trucks and other smaller trucks could navigate some of the turns inside the development property, and wondered whether such trucks might block cars from exiting or entering the parking area on the north side of the development.
Mlade, however, saw those concerns as minor ones that could be solved in the coming weeks.
“They’re very good points, and we’ll address them,” Mlade said. “It’s uphill yet, but its’ not an impossible task. I think they’re coming down on the side of getting this moving ahead.”
Should the LAC and Preservation Commissions give their blessings to the plan, the development would be shipped back to the Plan Commission for final approval. The site plan itself would not need any further action by the village board.
The only thing the village board would need to do is approve vacating the public alley that currently runs midway through the property from north to south from Burlington Street. In previous discussions about the development, the board has expressed no objection to vacating the alley.