National brands move in
The new Parkside neighborhood
taking shape around Railroad Park
is promoted as a mixed-use urban neighborhood with plenty of retail, restaurant, and entertainment. It seems basic, but new projects must provide rentable ground floor space to sign up the retail, restaurant and entertainment that attract people to live, visit and stroll the streets. How are some current projects stacking up in this regard? Currently under construction, 20 Midtown
is one of the most prominent, retail-wise, in the area (multi-sites along 20th Street South between Second and Fourth Avenues; architect: Cohen Carnaggio Reynolds
). The first building’s Starbucks
has recently opened (above); a Chipotle
is on its way, and a Publix
supermarket is coming in 2016. This lineup of national retailers is fairly unprecedented for a single project downtown or midtown. The supermarket alone promises to be a major anchor that will pull other developments into the area.
Density in Midtown
The next phase of the project (above) has even more retail space along both frontages. According to the retail leasing site
, about 110,000 SF of retail and commercial space will be provided in the completed project (ground floor retail appears to be approximately 85,000 SF). From a pedestrian-friendly planning perspective, the “urban drive-thrus” servicing Starbucks and other businesses aren’t ideal, and the curb cuts required between these and the other inner parking decks feel excessive–but at least the overall mass of the buildings are dominant, and these cuts are relatively minor breaks to the retail street frontage. In sum, 20 Midtown does an excellent job providing storefront space to the neighborhood.
The park deserved a bit better
The Liv Parkside
mixed-use development (above, main elevation on First Avenue South between 18th and 17th Streets; architect: Charlan Brock & Associates
) fills an entire half-block in a very prominent location directly across from Railroad Park. Due to its size (it will contain 228 rental apartments) and its location, it’s disappointing that it will offer only 4,000 SF of retail. And it’s not just the paucity of retail that’s a concern–the treatment of the storefront is architecturally weak, an odd combination of brick and punched openings that feels out of proportion with the major civic space it faces. In comparison, 20 Midtown’s more straight-forward storefront feels sophisticated and well-scaled to the streets. Overall Liv Parkside is a missed opportunity for invigorating the sidewalks fronting the park. On the bright side, local coffee house Red Cat
will anchor the retail mix and plans a Sunday brunch
that will no doubt prove popular for residents and visitors alike.
Uncertain at the street
Just southwest of Liv Parkside is the Venue
, providing 236 rental apartments (above, looking at the corner of Third Avenue South and 16th Street; architect: BOKA Powell
). In a blow to potential adjacent street life, this development offers no retail storefronts whatsoever, with the lobby and leasing office providing the only ground floor activity. If Liv Parkside offers too little rentable storefront, the fact that Venue offers none is truly a letdown.
Maybe there’s a little hope
As a consolation, the developers do state that, while no retail is being offered, there is ground floor space behind roll-up glass doors suitable for food trucks; perhaps this same space can be finished out for retail in the future. In the rendering above (along 16th Street) it’s possible to see these openings in the middle-to-far distance. For a mid-rise, dense urban project, the architectural massing and materials are better than some, but the street level leaves, unfortunately, much to be desired.
Unfit for urban life
Along 18th Street South and Second Avenue, Healthcare Realty Trust,
the REIT which owns a building directly north, is constructing a parking deck on a former surface parking lot (above, looking east along Second Avenue). There is not much to say here, except that there’s no attempt at an architectural fig leaf: we get a stark, block-long wall of brick, with smallish pierced openings looking directly into the garage. That this is being built a half block from Railroad Park is pretty devastating. Zoning laws in the City should be amended to require any parking deck constructed in prominent urban places to contain ground floor retail or other components to enhance the adjacent public space of the street, rather than cheapen it.
Headed back over to 20th Street, the good news is the large Station 121
building (completed 2010, seen above looking east at the corner of 20th Street South and First Avenue; architect: Niles Bolton and Associates
) is rapidly filling its storefronts. Having been mainly vacant due to the recession generally as well as market hesitation at this location specifically, the 21,000 SF of retail is now succeeding due to its proximity to newer developments including the Publix supermarket, and the general growth of Midtown which 5 years ago was still hypothetical. This block of retail and restaurant should nicely complement 20 Midtown’s efforts directly south.
A lost opportunity
Which brings us to our final, cautionary image: Athens Flatts, seen above along Second Avenue North between 23rd and 22nd Streets (completed 2007; architect: Rob Walker Architects
). The ground floor is a cousin to the new parking garage mentioned above–arched openings with metal security barriers look into a bleak parking garage which, especially at night, is completely at odds with the pedestrian character of this part of Second Avenue which is filled with bars and restaurants. Perhaps one day a portion of this garage will be carved away allowing these arches to open into shops and cafes. Until then, it serves to show us what happens when developments neglect the life on the streets that every urban structure has an obligation to engage. Let’s ensure future Parkside developments don’t fall into the same category.
[Thanks to Cohen Carnaggio Reynolds and BOKA Powell for the renderings]