Annex 1 Bloomington – Mixed-use proposal for Third and Grant faces further review

Herald Times Online

August 15, 2017

A new architecture firm made strides toward earning approval of Annex Student Living’s proposed mixed-use buildings at the intersection of East Third and South Grant streets, but it wasn’t enough to clinch an OK.

The Bloomington Plan Commission will hear Annex Student Living’s proposal again during its Sept. 11 meeting, despite the changes KTGY Architecture and Planning made to what was formerly two, five-story buildings. Though the redesign reduced the buildings to four stories each, there were a slew of other requirements the developer couldn’t meet. Commission members rallied against the building’s Third Street facade, calling it cold and unwelcoming to pedestrians.

“I think this project has got merit,” Commission President Joe Hoffmann said in his first time reviewing the project. “But, something has got to be done to make that block, or at least half of that block, so that it won’t make pedestrians cringe while passing.”

The site plan still does not meet several ordinance standards. It is above the allowed maximum height of 40 feet, standing 58 feet tall at its highest. The project currently has too little space dedicated to commercial use on the ground floor, though it has re-oriented the storefronts to face Grant Street as opposed the original design’s south-facing orientation.

Insufficient parking and the need for a traffic study gave commission member Andrew Cibor pause. For the proposed 107 bedrooms, the total development has 52 parking spots.

“You probably couldn’t pick a better location to walk to (and) from the corner of campus than this,” Hoffmann said.

Commission member Brad Wisler agreed, saying most residents may not even need a car thanks to the centralized location. However, Wisler did have unresolved concerns about a promised affordable housing consideration. In fact, several commission members asked the petitioner to return with a better explanation of the commitment that would offer 15 percent of the 105 total proposed units as workforce housing for people earning 120 percent or less of the adjusted median income, for a period of 99 years.

Commission member Heather Maritano said the size of the project, in combination with an unadorned wall facing Third Street, is currently too out of scope for that corner. Despite the rally cry from most commission members against the lack of building variation and its size relative to nearby historic buildings, most said the project had improved since it was last heard.

“I think that the challenges in this location are not just about this architecture, but some confusion we have on Third Street in general, in terms of hurry up and stop,” she said. “It’s schizophrenic right now.”

The developer’s argument for the long list of deviations from standard ordinances came down to the site itself. The limited space and steep grade changes have made placing windows and inviting pedestrians a challenge.

“The first thing that comes to mind is a Rubik’s Cube, when you think of this site,” said Craig Pryde, a representative of KTGY Architecture and Planning.

Come September, KTGY and Annex Student Living will have another chance at solving the puzzle.