Last night, the IHPC gave the go-ahead to the Chatham Center Project. It was certainly an interesting meeting, and I gained a new appreciation of the process.
The meeting started with the principal architect explaining the changes that have been made to appease the commission and the neighborhood. One key change was taking a retail space away from the first floor on 9th Street, and adding an apartment. This seemed to go over well with the board as they felt it respected the residential character of 9th St.
Next, the council asked for public comment in support of the project. Steve Tegarden, owner of the Nestle Inn, was very impressive, stating the project just screamed for approval. The next person who spoke was a bit in-your-face for me, but he definitely made his point that this is a city, not a suburb. Overall, though, these comments were good enough to justify the project.
However, the time came for the public to speak against Chatham Center. A long line of remonstraters followed, and I felt my urbanist pride take a hit with each one. Strangely, one of the people against the project was Chatham Arch resident Meg Storrow of Storrow Kinsella Associates. One look at the site shows that she has an obvious understanding of smart growth principals, but she was against this particular one. Other remonstraters had some pretty curious objections, with the most memorable being that “we can’t send Christmas Carolers to a Massage Parlor like we did with the Nursing Home.”
The developers were allowed a rebuttal, which was delivered by Larry Jones. He delivered what I believe to be the key line of the night; that people against the project have been using the Historic Preservation Plan for Urban Planning purposes. He also mentioned that East Street is a transitional street and that it is not necissarily residential in character.
Then the IHPC staff read their report, which was highly supportive of the project. The council then voted on the report, which was approved 6-2. I wasn’t sure if that meant the debate was over, but then I saw the developers greeting each other with smiles, and then those of us who supported the project left the room and the building to much rejoicing.