On Monday, Aug. 22, 2016 the Littleton Planning Commission approved a Planned Development Overlay (PDO) for a mixed-use project on the site of the old Valley Feed property. It’s in downtown Littleton on the north side of the west end of Main Street right by the old Carnegie Library (Artist rendition below).
It’s another instance of a huge building in a small space. The building is planned for retail, bank and office uses on the ground floor, offices on the second and third floors, and luxury apartments on the fourth floor.
The Littleton city government staff recommended that the application be turned down because the code required more parking than provided by the project. And that’s where it gets sticky! Parking! 115 spaces are necessary and they have only planned for 64. But there’s a way around the parking requirement – the Main Street Historic District.
The Main Street Historic District allows members a 50% reduction in the number of required parking spaces. That is a great incentive to participate in the historic district. If the project, called Littleton Mixed-Use, were a member, 64 spaces would be adequate. However, if a property is brought into the historic district first, the buildings cannot be demolished. This project requires that all three buildings on the Valley Feed site be demolished.
When it came time to approve the application, an amendment was made to the main motion requiring the development to become a member of the Main Street Historic District. But there is a Catch 22. To construct the building as designed, the old Valley Feed structures must first be demolished because they cannot join the Historic District and then remove the buildings. After demolition they must apply to join the Historic District. But it is not a shoe-in to become a member as the Historic Preservation Board will hold a public Hearing and then decide.
The Catch 22 is, will the Board approve? Here is the code:
4-6-14 (C) Criteria For Certificate Of Historic Appropriateness: The board shall issue a certificate of historic appropriateness for any proposed work on a historic landmark or any property in a historic district when the proposed work would not detrimentally alter, destroy or adversely affect any architectural or landscape feature which contributes to its original historic designation and is otherwise in conformance with any applicable adopted design guidelines. The board must find the proposed work visually compatible with designated historic structures located on the property in terms of design, finish, material, scale, mass and height. When the subject site is within a historic district, the board must also find that the proposed work is visually compatible with the development on adjacent properties. In the case of partial demolitions, the board must also find that the partial demolition is required for the renovation, restoration or rehabilitation of the structure and impacts on the historic importance and architectural integrity of the structure(s) located on the property have been mitigated to the greatest extent possible. For the purposes of this section, the term “compatible” shall mean consistent with, harmonious with, and/or enhances the mixture of complementary architectural styles either of the architecture of an individual structure or the character of the surrounding structures.
As pointed out during the Planning Board meeting by a couple of members, there is an issue with meeting the Main Street Design Standards and Guidelines, the Citywide Plan and the Complan/Neighborhood Plan. It’s scale, mass and height dwarfs the surrounding buildings. In its favor is the architecture, it is a beautiful structure.