Thank you for your thoughtful response Michelle,
This past weekend I was in Kansas City, and I ate at a wonderful brunch place that was tucked into a string of street-side shops in a residential neighborhood. It was about the same scale as the Lincoln Highway Lofts, without the condos above, surrounded by houses a decade or so older than the houses along that stretch of Johnson Avenue. It clearly was a wonderful amenity for the neighborhood. I think the Lincoln Highway Lofts would be an amenity for the neighborhoods that abut Johnson Avenue.
I want to see all of Cedar Rapids succeed, and I still think the Lincoln Highway Lofts would be a positive benefit for your neighborhood. I’ve been through the neighborhood, I love 50s bungalows and think it’s absolutely charming. To me the lofts compliment the neighborhood, respect it’s heritage, and will bring new opportunities for residents.
Keith Billick and his engineering team took concerns about stormwater runoff very seriously. The project was designed from the beginning to go above and beyond the city’s minimum stormwater runoff requirements. One of the ways it did this was by having what amounts to a massive cistern underneath the entire property that would have been large enough to hold all the rain from a major storm, and then release it slowly. The design also called for permeable pavers, planted areas, and a roof design that would funnel the water that fell onto 3010 Johnson Avenue into that cistern. The engineering that went into the Lofts was designed to make sure that there would be fewer problems with stormwater runoff after it was built, not more.
I wanted to address the issues of stormwater before I addressed the density of the project for a simple reason, the cost of building all of the necessary infrastructure to prevent stormwater runoff meant that the stuff built over the infrastructure had to be dense, otherwise the project wouldn’t make financial sense. There isn’t a way to build smaller on that lot that is financially feasible that won’t make stormwater runoff worse.
As for Johnson Avenue, reducing it from four lanes to two with a center turn lane would make the road safer without making traffic worse. This configuration change is very common and works on roads with traffic counts of up to 20,000 cars a day (Check out some of the facts about road diets here: http://www.citylab.com/design/2014/09/so-what-exactly-is-a-road-diet/379975/ here: http://gizmodo.com/what-the-heck-is-a-road-diet-1727066519 and here: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/549ae026e4b00c1193a3d7bd/t/56f336cf86db43ccbd695ef4/1458779857889/Road-Diets-Fact-Sheet.pdf)
If you don’t feel like reading all of that (and I don’t blame you), here are the key points.
- Road diets reduce crashes dramatically.
- They don’t have a negative impact on how much volume a road can handle for roads that see traffic counts of less than 20,000 cars a day. In some case studies traffic has actually improved since a road diet was performed.
- The number of people who choose to walk or bike increases dramatically on roads that have undergone a road diet.
- The developer of the Lincoln Highway Lofts did commission a traffic study that showed that it would have no impact on congestion.
There’s another point worth making, especially about Johnson Avenue. It needs work. Road diets make roads less expensive to maintain, and the addition of the Lincoln Highway Lofts to the neighborhood would increase the city’s tax base. The project would have reduced the city’s cost while boosting it’s revenue. That means more money for road repair (and teachers, firefighters, and parks too)
I understand your concern about parking, and I think at this point it’s important to note one of the unique features of the Loft projects. Because of the slope of the lot many of the live/work units would have garage parking, and the project was designed to appeal to people who wanted to live about where they work. Instead of commuting from across town, people would commute down the stairs. The project would have also added street parking along Johnson Avenue.
I think Billick should also ask the other business owners along the street to share parking, I drive down Johnson quite a bit and I know that many of the parking lots along that stretch of the road aren’t ever full. The city should also expand the scope of the road diet and include on-street parking in front of the other businesses along Johnson Avenue. I think the city could also help alleviate concerns among residents about parking overflow by making parking along 31st and 32nd streets NW available only to residents.
Just a little bit more about parking, I swear! I know that in the City Council meeting there were concerns about noise and privacy for the houses that would be next to 3010 Johnson Avenue. I think that there should be evergreens planted along the perimeter of the parking lot in the rear. Evergreens would provide both a noise buffer and visual privacy.
I really want to thank you for writing a response Michelle. I know we might now see eye to eye on this project but I admire you standing up for what you believe in. I want you to know that I take your concerns seriously, but I do believe that they have solutions. I hope what I wrote here today makes it clear that while I may disagree with you about whether the Lincoln Highway Lofts should get built, I think that neighbors asking tough, serious questions about what the impact of a new project will be need to be heard.