A team of downtown development veterans will have to hold off on digging at First and Canal streets.
A planned five-story, 70-unit apartment building for the second time hit a snag Monday with developers and neighborhood members at odds over the size and parking requirements of the project.
Monument Construction, in a joint venture with Marc Galt of Sensei Development, is under contract to buy the lot at First and Canal, where they had initially planned 93 units. They scaled back to 70 units in December before taking their rezoning request to the Richmond Planning Commission this month.
The request, which would change the zoning on a six-parcel section of downtown that is less than a half-acre, got the okay from the Planning Commission on Jan. 6. But it has been twice delayed by City Council, most recently on Monday, after concerns were raised by a handful of nearby business owners over property values, potential loss of riverfront views, traffic congestion and parking.
John-Lawrence Smith, owner of the neighboring Cape Fear Publishing at 109 E. Cary St., said the showing was the result of a last-minute drive to get the word out about the developers’ plan.
“Everyone has been caught so flat-footed on this – nobody knew about this project,” said Smith, whose company’s building sits just northeast of the planned development. “You don’t know what rezoning means, or what the consequences are. There were certainly no fliers or boards put up saying ‘there’s going to be a 93-unit apartment building here.’”
The zoning application was continued for the second time Monday to add an amendment that requires development at the site to have one onsite parking spot per apartment.
Monument Construction principal Tom Dickey said this month that the development team scaled back to 70 units because a high water table in the area limited the potential for underground parking and the apartment market calls for one-to-one parking.
Andy Condlin, a Roth Doner Jackson attorney representing the developers, said one parking space per unit is consistent with other apartment projects in the area. Typically, he said, more than one space per unit is only required for student apartment buildings.
“We’re not student housing, we’re not marketing to students,” Condlin said. “We feel like one per unit is more than appropriate in this situation.”
Condlin said that the building would need its full five stories to be economically feasible and that the development team has offered a 30-foot setback from the property’s northern edge in hopes of alleviating concerns over potential loss of river views.
Condlin said the developers have notified nearby neighbors of the plan’s status and will continue conversations with the neighborhood over the next two weeks.
Smith still fears students will end up living at First and Canal and worries that one parking space per apartment unit might not be enough.
“There are going to be 83 beds in this thing and 70 parking places – where are those 13 people going to park?” he said. “They’re going to be jamming the streets, and they’re going to be parking illegally.”
Smith called the one-to-one parking proffer a step in the right direction but said he still would like to see the planned building scaled back.
“I would be very much in favor of an appropriate project in the neighborhood,” he said. “But that to me would be two or three stories high and with all parking onsite necessary to support the demand of the building.”
The First and Canal project will try again to get the green light for rezoning at the Feb. 10 City Council meeting.
Because Monument and Galt are seeking conditional rezoning and not a special-use permit, the precise plans for the project would not need council approval as long as they stay within the zoning restrictions for the property.
Monument and Galt previously collaborated on Shockoe Valley Heights, a $29 million apartment and retail development in the block bounded by Main, Franklin, 20th and 21st streets. Monument is also in the process of converting the Exchange Place office building on Main Street into at 63-unit mixed-use apartment complex.