by Steve Greenfield and Kemble Pope
Two years ago, over 40 Davisites decided to invest in our community by purchasing and proposing privately funded redevelopment of the Trackside Center at 901-919 Third Street. We envisioned an aesthetically pleasing property with retail and residential uses mixed together and a focus on sustainability powered by close access to transit, bicycle, and pedestrian infrastructure.
Our vision is founded on the idea that new residential opportunities for empty nesters and urban professionals a mere 800 feet from the train station, within walking distance of every business in Downtown Davis and UC Davis, is a win for our Downtown and the entire community. As we all struggle to help downtown Davis thrive, revitalizing a commercial center with new, sustainable retail opportunities and activating the adjacent unsafe, crumbling alleyway as a pedestrian and bike friendly corridor is also a win for the community.
Initially, in May 2015, we submitted an application to build a six-story mixed use building with underground parking and a spacious public plaza. Some of our neighbors in the Old East Davis (OED) neighborhood expressed serious concerns about the proposal, mainly focused on the relative size of the building and compliance with zoning and design guidelines. As local residents who intend to own and operate the redeveloped property for many years, we took these concerns to heart and made a clear and conscience decision to gather information and go back to the drafting table with a new architect.
During the last seven months we’ve had dozens of conversations, including a city-wide community workshop, a meeting with the neighborhood to explore the details of the Design Guidelines and Zoning Code, and multiple meetings with large and small groups representing the neighborhood, Downtown and other interested community groups. In September 2016, we submitted a new proposal informed by the conversations that we have had over the last year.
We appreciate all of the time, energy and effort that our neighbors and other community members have spent giving their input on the proposals. We want to be very clear that while we were unable to achieve consensus on the new design with some of our neighbors, we have made significant compromises on many features and components of the project based on what we heard in the past sixteen months.
The new Trackside Center proposal is still a mixed-use building with a plaza. The residential units remain rental units designed for empty nesters and professionals that want to live a more urban lifestyle.
The major changes from the original proposal to the current proposal include:
- Reduction from 78 ft maximum height to 49 ft maximum height. On the OED side of the building, 38 ft maximum height, which is shorter than several historic buildings & many trees in the neighborhood
- Reduction from 6-stories to 4-stories, with the 4th floor massed towards the Railroad and Third Street. On the OED side of the building, the building is 3-story with setbacks at the 2nd & 3rd The new building is the same height as the Chen Building and the McCormick Building and shorter than the nearby parking garage.
- Reduction from 48 residential units to 27 residential units.
- Elimination of 3 bedroom units; the new proposal is mainly 2 bedroom units with a few studios and 1 bedroom units.
- 3rd and 4th floors are stepped back from the east (Alley & OED) for a minimum distance of 46 ft and 62 ft respectively between the proposed building and the adjacent neighbor’s property.
- 3rd and 4th floors are stepped back from the north (ACE Rock Yard) 26 ft and 53 ft respectively to ensure that view corridors from OED to the west are maintained.
- Elimination of underground parking (concerns about potential damage to structural integrity of nearby historic home were expressed; cost of underground parking is cost prohibitive without more residential units.) The new proposal contains 30 at-grade parking spaces, most tucked under the building, plus public and private bike parking.
- Building has been narrowed to create an 8 ft wide, tree-lined sidewalk on our private property along the alley.
- Public plaza, anchored by an existing cork oak tree, has been reduced from 6k SF to 4k SF to create surface parking.
- “Farmhouse Modern” architecture (sloping roofs and traditional building materials) have been carefully crafted on the alley side of the building to be more responsive to the traditional architecture of OED.
- Solid walls and louvered balconies maintain privacy for the neighbors and for the new building tenants.
We believe that the redesigned Trackside Center is in close compliance to City zoning and meets most of the design guidelines while furthering the City’s goals for higher density, sustainable infill and a vibrant downtown.
One of the most effective solutions to creating a sustainable downtown is to provide housing that promotes a walkable and transit oriented lifestyle in the core. We have a lack of quality housing opportunities in the Downtown. Sustainable cities are dense in the core. This, as a clear Davis planning goal, is the bedrock of our answer to resisting urban sprawl.
We are committed to making this project a great addition to our community.
-Steve Greenfield and Kemble Pope are Davis residents and the Managing Members of Trackside Center, LLC.