Friday, March 12, 2010

Fry Street Update: Non-Rant Version

Yesterday, a commenter tipped me off that there had been an update in the seemingly ongoing Fry Street saga. When the story had last been discussed here back in late December, it appeared that a massive apartment complex for students would be taking over the block:
The Dinerstein Companies of Houston and Winkelmann & Associates Inc. of Dallas filed a pre-application with Denton city officials on Monday to build 210 student apartments with 586 beds in a four-story complex split by a multistory parking garage.
As bad as the proposed Fry Street Village had been, this seemed even worse, because the former commercial block would have nothing commercial on it at all. And of course, the usual concerns about traffic were raised by those who live in the area.

In my post back in December, I had a suggestion of my own for a possible compromise:
So why not split the difference here: Since New Urbanism is all the rage, how about a mixed-use development with businesses on the ground floor and apartments above it? [Former council member and area resident Mike] Cochran is right--apartments would be a waste of prime commercial land, so that might as well be included in the plan. How about it, folks?
I hadn't read anything else about the proposal since then, but, prompted by the commenter's tip, I found out that a lot has been going on this spring. First, a recap of the original proposal:
City planners and some residents criticized the developer’s initial plans, filed with the city in December, which showed a four-story apartment complex and multistory parking garage but no retail shops, despite the area’s history as a hub for independent shops and restaurants.
Believe it or not, the developers listened:
The latest plans are largely the same as those presented at the last public meeting Feb. 17. They show more than 10,000 square feet of ground-level retail space, an outdoor patio and some wider sidewalks along with the 194-unit apartment complex and 700-space parking garage.

Recent changes include the addition of a new facade on the parking garage facing Oak Street and bay windows and pitched roofs on the apartments facing Welch Street, [Dinerstein Cos. partner Josh] Vasbinder said.
There are still some things to be worked out; the four-story plan is one higher than is allowed in the area by current zoning. But the Council was enthusiastic about the project, even praising the developers for incorporating suggestions from a couple of community meetings held last month. It's also nice to see that other landowners in the area are on board as well:
The meeting also brought news that the developer has the entire block under contract except for the Cool Beans lot, which isn’t part of the project.

“At our last community meeting, we only had the United Equities property under contract,” Vasbinder said, referring to the Houston-area company that bought most of the block several years ago in a failed attempt to redevelop it. “We were in dialogue with both the [Gene] Hartman property as well as the [Joe] Normile. I can tell you today we have all three properties under contract.”
I don't think there's any chance of pleasing everybody here, but this latest idea seems like the best possible compromise (and not just because it's exactly what I suggested back in December, LOL). There's no ugly chain drugstore at the Hickory/Fry corner; the retail mixed in with the residential is a nod to the history of the area; and the patio and wider sidewalks seem like a nice touch. It's better than the United Equities plan, and it's better than the big empty field of mud that's there now.

The developer hopes to get final approval by December, break ground next year and open by the summer of 2012, which would finally bring to a close the sad saga that began when United Equities bought the block in May of 2006.

And I close with a simple, five-word request to Vasbinder and his colleagues: Please invite the Tomato back. (Thank you.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There's a new pizza place right across from where Tomato used to be called Crooked Crust! It's not very big and certainly doesn't have the same style pizza but economically I think it will be a success....2 slices and a drink for $5 or 4 pieces (half a pie) and 2 drinks for $9! The price includes ANY toppings and tax! You'll have to give it a try and a review!