Plans for a six-story apartment building in Uptown were well-received in their return before the West Design Review Board last week.

The board gave its unanimous approval for the project, which calls for nearly 100 units in addition to more than 4,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space at 417 2nd Ave. W. An existing four-plex will be demolished to make way for the new development, which will be sandwiched between a four-story office building and a future six-story apartment building. Parking for 57 vehicles will be provided. Though the site was included in last year’s neighborhood rezone, the project does not hit the new height-limit of 85-feet, instead topping out at 70-feet (though still higher than the previous zoning maximum of 65).

Ray Johnston with Johnston Architects presented the updated plans on Wednesday night, emphasizing the potential for arts and cultural space that could be incorporated into the building. Uptown was recognized last July as the third neighborhood in the city to be designated as an Arts & Cultural District.

“We love art anyway, so finding ways to incorporate them is exciting,” he said.

Among the ideas floated were designating part of the garage space as an art studio, including gallery space in the lobby, and potentially using one of the affordable units included as part of the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) and Multifamily Tax Exemption (MTFE) programs for an artist-in-residence.

“We don’t have a hard commitment,” Johnston said. “But we’re working on that.”

The board expressed its support of the arts and culture elements, in addition to the potential for a mural along the alleyway as a means of adding visual interest to what often serves as a thoroughfare for pedestrians.

“People do walk down these alleys, they are a means of transportation,” said board chair Stephen Porter.

The ground-level experience was also a focal point of discussion, with Johnston saying part of the architects’ strategy was to “promote a pedestrian atmosphere” with the storefronts set back 10-feet from the property line along Second Avenue West. The setbacks on the north and south sides are meant to allow for both outdoor seating and gathering areas.

The site itself, however, does provide some challenges in that regard.

“We want to connect to the street, but we’re also at a steep grade,” said landscape architect Karen Kiest.

Overall, the board believed the development had responded well to the guidance given during its first presentation last August, with few conditions, primarily surrounding the building materials. Specifically, members were in favor of using natural wood or something “thoughtful and consistent with the concept,” for the development’s eastern facade.

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Design Review Presentation — 417 2nd Ave. W. (July 11, 2018) by QueenAnneMagnoliaNews on Scribd