Friday, October 22, 2010

Architect Critiques Horizon West's Lakeside Village Siteplan

Lakeside Village Siteplan -- As Shown on the Developer's website
Tory Parish of Jackson Parish Architects posted a critique of the proposed Lakeside Village Siteplan on her blog.  Tory, a resident of Horizon West, relied on a siteplan and architectural renderings posted online by the developer, Boyd Development Corporation.   (There's no relationship between Boyd Development Corp. and Commissioner Scott Boyd). 

Tory writes:
Nothing about the current architectural renderings speak to the history or desirability of this area of Central Florida.  The current renderings depict a typical regurgitated shopping center as found anywhere in Florida.  Why can't the architecture be timeless?  Have some character?  Resonate with our history?  Reflect elements of the Florida vernacular as found in nearby Gotha and historic downtown Winter Garden?
What about apartments and offices above retail?

The current site plan prioritizes the automobile.  Pedestrians and bikers are a distant second.  Every building is surrounded by asphalt.  .... 
The critique comes late, after road and infrastructure construction has begun and when the developer is already seeking Development Plan approvals.  Nevertheless, Commissioner Boyd invited Ms. Parish and me to meet with the developer earlier this week. 

I respect Boyd Development Corporation as a fine conventional suburban retail and office developer.  Its principal partner developed Sand Lake Road's Plaza Venezia, an upscale strip retail center with Publix, Season's 52, Cedars, Shala's Salon, Roy's etc. 

Plaza Venezia, Sand Lake Road
Horizon West's pedestrian-friendly, pedestrian-oriented requirements challenge conventional suburban developers, who tend to propose siteplan layouts used in automobile-only, sprawl environments, like that depicted above.  Conventional suburban developers find comfort in their formula business and financing models.  The transition to a different model is not easy.  Resistance is natural.  The industry does not widely understand New Urban development's long-term financial return advantage compared to conventional suburban development. 

More than a year ago, Orange County approved the Lakeside Village Center's Preliminary Subdivision Plan (PSP), which included a Conceptual Layout.  Boyd Development Corp.'s proposed deviations do not necessarily favor the pedestrian.

How To Turn Main Street Into A Parking Lot
Tory writes, "The four central buildings, which could be tweaked to provide a pedestrian-friendly zone [with parallel parking], have been pushed apart" with perpendicular parking.  The Conceptual Layout below, approved by the County, shows diagonal parking, a compromise between parallel and perpendicular parking. 

Approved Concept Plan--Diagonal Parking narrows the roadway somewhat, keeping the buildings closer together to establish enclosure and a sense of place. 

Perpendicular parking, proposed by the developer, pushes the buildings further apart, and creates more of the appearance of a parking lot. 
Parallel parking requires parking lanes 7-8 feet in width and allows the narrowest street realm.  The charm of old European cities results, in part, from their narrow streets.  SmartCode, a model New Urban Code, allows diagonal parking lanes as little as 17 feet in width.  The perpendicular parking, proposed by the developer, will require two parking lanes, each 18 or 20 feet wide, as required by Section 38-1479(b) of the Orange County Code.  

The developer's explanation for wanting perpendicular parking is that a tenant in Retail Building "D" will not want a customer of Retail Building "C" parking in front of Building "D."  The developer--and perhaps their prospective tenants--do not appreciate the irrelevancy of where customers park in a shared parking environment, especially when the customers have a very narrow and safe street to cross.    

UPDATE Nov. 4--The Orange County Development Review Committee yesterday approved perpendicular parking. 

Lack of Pedestrian-Oriented Outparcels

While the approved Lakeside Village Center PD (called the "Frye PD") allows for more than 800 apartment and live-work townhome units to the west, within a five minute or so walk, the developer contends that "98% of people will drive" to the development.  That's the justification for omitting pedestrian amenities at the outparcels.  However, the omission will make exclusive automobile use a self-fulfilling prophesy.  Tory told the developer she would never walk between their disconnected outparcels.   

The disconnected outparcels give weight to Tory's criticism that the Lakeside Village Center plan "is in direct contrast to Orange County's goal of designing and creating sustainable communities designed for pedestrians."  

"The McDonald's Will Be Pedestrian Friendly"

We advocated an urban prototype for McDonalds with direct sidewalk connection to the restaurant door and a drive-thru in the rear (see the blog post on McDonald's below).  We noted the aesthetic benefits and how they could extend the internal main street's pedestrian experience.  Veteran Orange County planner John Smogor assured about 80 Horizon West residents attending a Community Meeting earlier this month that, "The McDonald's will be pedestrian-friendly." 

The Gas Station Gateway

The developer proposes to move the gas station to the northernmost parcel along C.R. 535 and face the gasoline station pumps and canopy towards southbound motorists.  The view would be similar to this, with vegetation and a knee-wall obscuring much of the vehicles:

Typical suburban prototype gas station.
That is not the gateway view I imagined for a "Village Center."  We urged the developer to hide the gas pumps and canopy from C.R. 535 behind the building as shown below:

Pedestrian-friendly gas station.  Most motorists, even if not familiar with the area,  will recognize the Shell logo and understand where to go.
Orange County required such a layout in Avalon Park, a New Urban development east of the airport. 

Horizon West Residents: "Stick with the Vision."

Orange County Planner Luis Nieves-Ruiz is spearheading a "retrospective" study of Horizon West.  He told the Planning and Zoning Board that Horizon West residents who responded to a County survey want to "stick with the vision."  I'm hopeful the Orange County Development Review Committee, when considering the Lakeside Village Center Development Plan submittals, will do just that.