This post is about community hubs, realization, and an upcoming planning application.
My neighbor Bekah will from time to time remind or goad me that we live in suburbia. We live on the outskirts of town, or as I’m inclined to refer to it at city council meetings from time to time, “red haired stepchild neighborhood”.
We really don’t though, it’s less than a mile walk to Main St., city hall, and the restaurants in old town.
When I lived in Austin, I lived in the “Keep Austin Weird” former hippy neighborhood, it was about the same distance to city hall. I would have laughed at you if you said I lived in the ‘burbs in old south-Austin. The longtime residents would have taken down their rifles from their recycled plastic gun racks feeling threatened.
I’ve never lived very far from city hall. Heck even when I first emigrated to New York City, almost 40-years ago, my first apartment was on the lower central east side, just outside the village, and close to, yes, city hall. I dunno why, it just happened that way.
I own a car, a formally fancy car, I’m planning to be one of those grandads who someday exhibits his formally fancy Mercedes in Church parking lots with it still in original, near perfect, but slightly over-cleaned condition in “car crawls” or “coffee and car meetups”.
I like to think of myself as progressive though, I walk or use transit whenever I can. Driving down to Denver and parking now seems so 1980’s compared to taking the bus, if only we had trams, interurbans, or some form of electric mass transit.
“A third place is where people hang-out that isn’t home and isn’t work”.
This morning via a share on twitter by @americanfietser – a massive cycling for transport advocate, I watched these two short videos by Nathan Allebach on TikTok that finally threaded the needle for me, “3rd Places”. Watch the videos, they take just 3-minutes total.
When I woke up this morning, I just wanted to see other people, dunno why. I’m lucky, I live a 5-minute walk from a busy full-size grocery store. At its busiest times I can walk there quicker than I could drive and park, sometimes I could end up parking almost half the distance I have to walk. It was thriving, loads of workers still stacking shelves, early morning shoppers and more. Yes, it has a Starbucks franchise inside, I never go there though.
The grocery store is my easy “3rd Place”, I go most days by foot to buy fresh food for dinner. I also walk to the library when I can, another great 3rd place. Where are your favorite 3rd places?
North End Market
I didn’t buy my current home. We bought a lot, picked a model, modified the plan and paid a builder to build it. At the time we visited the sales center, the salesperson, aka Realtor, told us the plan for the frontage lot was to build a mixed-used, dense block with a stand-alone brew pub, maybe coffee or wine bars and other commercial stores. It sounded fantastic. We could be both local and really local.
The planning permission was modified, the developer wanted more density, but also didn’t want to pay school district fees, so tried to push it through as over 55 aka senior living. The council gave some, but also insisted that the commercial blocks were built first. That was back in 2017. It never happened, they never pulled permits and broke ground.
They plans have been revised again, this time fewer multiple occupancy units, more town homes. I don’t have an issue with this, I have some concerns about road entry and exit. This development will add 350 housing units in mixed configurations and that’s a lot(both physically and metaphorically). It will introduce a big change in traffic patterns. As it currently stands, it will also likely increase the number of dangerous and illegal left/eastbound turns.
I know other neighbors have concerns about lighting; the Master HOA has changed the default tree lawn requirements from under the builder and the plans don’t meet the new requirements for less water and maintenance intensive grass.
In the same period, I’ve watched a number of other local planning applications either fail, or not break ground because the developer doesn’t believe they can make money from mixed-use residential and commercial developments.
Here is the rub though, if we complain and push back on the development, we will lessen the chance of the developer breaking ground and adding valuable local assets in 3rd party places. Failing to break ground will also do nothing to affect affordability, which is now at an all-time low for the city, as it is for most of the front range.
For More Information
Nathan is @nathanallebach on twitter. The book mentioned in the video is “The great good place” by Ray OldenburgISBN 9781569246818. You can read it online free at the Internet Archive, here. You can also get it free from your library, even if they don’t stock it, they will order it in free via an interlibrary loan. I have it on hold at the local library, will walk there and read for at least an hour in the reading area, and coffee shops after that.