Saturday, February 09, 2013
Huff Lane developer seeks compromise
The developer has proposed reducing the height of the hotels to address concerns about the project.
The developer seeking to build two hotels and a restaurant where the shuttered Huff Lane Intermediate School now sits is proposing a lower profile.
Williamsburg-based NDRA II LLC hopes that digging a bit deeper and cutting the height of the hotels would ease concerns of neighbors and the Roanoke Planning Commission about the project.
To do so, it proposes cutting the height of the hotel buildings to 54 feet from 60 feet, and lowering the grade of the site, so that the first floor of the hotels would be 4.5 feet lower than the school's floors now are.
Taken together, that should reduce the profile of the hotels by 10.5 feet, as seen from Dorchester Court and Grandview neighborhoods, according to a revised plan filed with the city Thursday.
That means the two hotels would stand no more than 19.5 feet above the highest part of the school, said Sheldon Bower, principal with Parker Design Group, the Salem company that revised the developer's plans for it.
"This is a 35 percent reduction in height over the school than previously presented," Bower said in a letter to the city's planning department.
Cutting the height of the buildings, lowering the grade and promising that they would come no closer than 95 feet from Huff Lane should also keep them from looming over the neighborhood, the developer contends.
Residents are skeptical.
"It doesn't really address the issue," said Patrick Corp, president of the Dorchester Court Neighborhood Watch Association.
"They're still going to be five stories high. They're just digging down a bit."
Corp said people in the Dorchester Court and Grandview neighborhoods feel intensive commercial development just isn't appropriate at the school site. They say the developer and the city seem to see the site as part of the Valley View Mall area instead of as part of their neighborhood.
The developer agreed to purchase the 5.3-acre school site in March, after offering a response to the city's request for proposals for the site that offered the highest price for the land of any of the seven submissions.
The purchase, which has not been completed because it is conditioned on a rezoning to allow commercial development, does not involve the southern two-thirds of the tract, which is to remain a park. The entire site, including part the city would sell to the developer and the 10.2 acres the city would keep, is assessed at $2.5 million.
The developer said its project could generate $1 million a year in new tax revenue, while the city is hoping to use $1.7 million in proceeds from selling the Huff Lane school site to help pay for renovating and expanding Round Hill Elementary School.
But last month, the Roanoke Planning Commission voted 7-0 against recommending that the city council rezone the school site to allow the hotels and restaurant project. Commission members said the height of the buildings was one of their major concerns. The city council will consider the project at its Feb. 19 meeting.
The developer is an affiliate of HMP Properties, a Williamsburg firm that operates eight hotels across the state.