It has been over a year since the initial Trackside Center application proposed the redevelopment of existing buildings just east of the railroad tracks and west of I Street. However, the neighbors quickly opposed the proposal heavily, citing its incompatibility with the existing neighborhood. Of particular concern was the six-story design and the perceived lack of communication between the applicants and the neighborhoods.
After extensive work between the developers and the neighbors, this week the developers have submitted a new application for a four-story mixed-use building. In their application they note, “The new building will be one story of street-level commercial uses, three stories (top story is massed toward the west and south) of rental residences and parking, tucked under the north end of the building, continuing out to the western edge of the site.”
The applicants write, “Third Street is the major east-west connector street from the Core Area of Davis to UC Davis. This building would serve as the eastern anchor to the long-envisioned ‘Main Street’ mixed-use corridor.” They add, “The site is at the nexus of many different land uses and zoning: railroad, rock yard, commercial and a traditional neighborhood. The proposed building has different architectural styles and setbacks/stepbacks on each façade both in recognition and to aid in the transition of the varying uses, scales and characters that surround the site.”
Trackside Center, LLC currently owns the property and “build and own this project as a long-term hold. The owners of the company are all Davis residents with deep roots and a history of dedicated service to our community.”
They continue, “This project was originally submitted in May 2015 as a 6-story building with similar uses. In early 2016, the project went back to the drawing board. Comments and input from City leaders, many Davis residents and neighbors have been received, recorded and when possible, incorporated into the updated design.”
While the project is pared down from the original May 2015 six-story building, the current proposal still seeks to achieve increased residential density in the downtown combined with new commercial and retail space for “transit-oriented infill and sustainable redevelopment.”
It features three storefront areas, totaling 9100 square feet. The applicants note, “The site contains a parcel that has been leased from Union Pacific Railroad for over 100 years and the proposal would improve it to provide an inviting landscaped plaza for the commercial frontage facing west with parking at the northern end.”
The updated proposal does reduce the previously proposed width of the building by eight feet in order “to create a tree-lined sidewalk on private property along the west edge of the 30’ wide public alley. This ‘alley activation’ will create commercial frontage on the southern half of the building, facing east.”
The project requests “a traffic reconfiguration to one-way north, retains the existing number of parking within the alley and adds a loading zone and aesthetic improvements to create a charming and pedestrian accessible ‘European-style’ alley.”
The 27 residences will be “a mixture of sizes and configurations that are accessed through a secure lobby and elevator. The rental unit designs target demographics which includes existing Davis residents that want to downsize from their larger homes or want to lead a more urban lifestyle in Downtown Davis near our multi-modal transit center.
“The design of the project is sensitive and responsive to the adjacent uses,” the applicants write. “Along the eastern edge, the architecture is ‘Farmhouse Modern’ to create a more traditional residential look-and-feel. The building is massed away from the east and north in a series of stepbacks.”
On Third Street, there will be a “Main Street” traditional storefront component that “dominates the pedestrian experience with the top floor is set back from view.”
Along the railroad, “the plaza is anchored by an existing Cork Oak tree. The architecture of this façade is more industrial in nature, reflecting the site’s history and railroad adjacency.”
“Privacy concerns are an important part of the architecture of this project, and great care has been taken to protect the privacy of future residents and existing neighbors with a variety of proposed solutions including trees, increased setbacks and screened balconies,” they write.
On the sustainability front, “The project is a dense, transit-oriented, bicycle and pedestrian friendly development that will encourage small carbon footprint lifestyles due to its location and design. The project will meet or exceed the City’s Cal-Green standards and Title 24 requirements with solar PV and other innovative systems.”
The applicants conclude, “Trackside Center is designed with high quality architecture and materials to define a downtown gateway. It gracefully integrates the surrounding uses and helps to achieve the City’s goals by pursuing environmental sustainability, adding economic vitality, improving infrastructure, and promoting a vibrant and safe downtown.”
The original Trackside proposal was doomed almost from the start. The initial response of the neighbors was criticism – not just for the height of the building, but also many of the neighbors claimed to have never been contacted.
“No attempt was made to contact the Old East Davis Neighborhood Association itself,” Alan Miller said at the city council meeting in June of 2015.
Tia Will told the council that she is “absolutely delighted at the thought of an upgrade to these buildings which are very old, clearly past their prime, and needing development.”
However, she was critical of the project as designed. “The proposal is to put in a six-story building in an area in which the maximal height of residences is two stories and many of them are one-story. I see this as a clear departure from the nature of the existing neighborhood.”
The Vanguard had walked around the neighborhood with developers, with photos showing that the impact of the development was visually relatively small for most of the neighborhood. But Ray Burdick and his wife, living at the corner of I and 3rd Streets, showed us just how impactful the project would be on their home.
Ray Burdick told the Vanguard he has never been opposed to building there – it is about the size of the building and, more than that, it is about the fact that, unlike the setbacks and mitigations people viewing the building from Second or Third Street will see, he would be looking at the full expanse of the building from his back rooms and back yard – a single floor of retail and five floors of living space.
He told the Vanguard, “What’s the quality of life when you put something that is that dense into something that should be transitional?”
In March, the Trackside proposal went back to the drawing board, with a workshop at the Odd Fellows Hall drawing a huge audience.
As project manager Kemble Pope told the Vanguard, “We heard the neighborhood and community concerns about the project size, we’re no longer pursuing the 6-story May 2015 proposal and we’re back to the drafting table with neighbor and community input driving a new concept.”
The question now is will a reduced height, to four stories, and changes to the design features change the community response?
—David M. Greenwald reporting