Earlier this month, earth began moving on the property of the Barton Tower for what will be be construction of Phase 1 of the infill project surrounding the base of the 21 story monolithic tower that now stands there.
Phase 1 of this project will include 61 affordable rate units financed by the sale of state housing credits. The design of this portion seems to be locked in using existing surface parking spaces on the site which will be covered by the new building which will rise primarily along East St, with short stretches along Michigan and Mass ave. According to an IHPC report from August 1st, a second phase is planned along Mass Ave which would include market rate apartments along with ground level retail. A Site Plan indicating the area taken up by Phase 1 and Phase 2 can be seen below.
A large argument has erupted locally on the design merits of this project. At the core seems to be a faction who believe that preserving the existing green-space of the property should be a priority. The structure’s original utilitarian design is offset by the green-space which includes a number of mature trees. As you might guess, the trees are being uprooted for the expansion of the property which is what spurred the conversation now, instead of earlier this year when the project was moving its way through regulatory hearings.
Now, we are faced with a big question. Should we consider the removal of this green-space socially unjust to current residents of the tower as some argue? Will the removal of this space lessen the quality of life experienced by current residents? Additionally, the construction of a new 5 story building adjacent to the base of the existing tower will eliminate existing views. Is this an acceptable change for current residents ?
Indeed, interior facing views are common for apartment complexes in urban areas. The nearly complete, and far more luxurious CityWay, included interior facing apartments in the final design. Are those too, unjust? Should a public conversation be taking place regarding those apartments too?
If we consider again the removal of the green-space, it could be argued that there is sufficient green-space within walking distance of the site. The American Legion Mall and War memorials are within easy walking distance on Michigan or North Street and represent an equal, if not shorter, travelling distance when compared to many downtown dwellers proximity to green-space.
These are the discussion points that people are using in their arguments for staving off the coming site expansion plans. Making a case based on views and proximity to green-space will be made. Are they valid? Or are some simply attempting to avoid change and further infill in our inner city neighborhoods?