A rezoning request for an 85-unit apartment complex at the old International Shoe Factory site received unanimous support Monday night from the Washington Planning and Zoning Commission.
A number of residents near the proposed development questioned the parking plan for the project. Despite the concerns, the city’s plan board backed the project and recommend the city council approve the rezoning.
The planning and zoning commission’s recommendation will be forwarded to the council. The council will host another public hearing and then is set to vote on the rezoning at its Tuesday, Feb. 18, meeting.
Developer Ed Schmelz is seeking to change the zoning from M-2 heavy industrial to PD-R planned residential. The old shoe factory is located at 700 W. Second St.
The property is located on Second Street between Rand and Johnson streets. It is currently owned by Eckelkamp Enterprises, LLC.
Sal Maniaci, community and economic development director, said the rezoning request covers almost two city blocks. He said the proposed zoning district is relatively new for the city, but is intended for projects like this one.
Maniaci said this project, with a building already in place, presents unique challenges that wouldn’t fit in the city’s other zoning districts. He called the old shoe factory a “derelict, blighted building.”
Owner L.B. Eckelkamp Jr. called the building an “eyesore” and “an embarrassment.”
Maniaci said the shoe factory wound down operations between 1959 and 1961. He said it was used as storage until 1964, but has been vacant since then based on the city’s research.
The proposed apartment complex would renovate the existing one-, two- and three-story structures on the site. Four smaller structures that were not part of the original building would be demolished to make way for parking.
A total of 85 units are planned. Of those, 50 would be two-bedroom units and 35 would be one-bedroom units.
Schmelz said the plans call for two studio apartments that would rent out for $595 a month. The one-bedroom, one-bathroom units would rent out for $765 a month.
The two-bedroom, two-bathroom units would rent for $975 a month while the two-bedroom, one-bathroom units would rent for $925 a month.
Schmelz said the rent would include sewer, water and trash collection.
The units would range in size from 610 square feet to 1,012 square feet.
Maniaci said there were two main reasons why the property needed to be zoned PD-R in order for this project to work — parking and density.
For parking, the proposed plan does not meet the city’s standards. Maniaci said city code requires all apartments to allot two parking spaces per unit.
The proposed plan by Schmelz has 128 off-street parking spots and 25 on-street spots. Added up, that only gets the project to 1.8 spots per unit.
In order to maximise parking, Maniaci said the city is proposing the on-street parking along Rand and Second stripes be striped with stalls. He said stalls prevent people from parking irregularly and boxing out other cars.
The city does not want striping along Johnson Street because it was deemed to be too narrow.
Schmelz said the parking would be adequate because 41 percent of the units would be one-bed units. He said about 20 percent of those would have just one car.
Assuming all the units were rented, and all the two-bedrooms had two cars, Schmelz said there would be enough parking if 20 percent of the one-bed units had just one car.
Maniaci pointed out the American Planning Association’s national parking standards recommend 1.5 parking spaces for single-bedroom apartments. He said under the APA standard, the project would need 153 spaces — exactly what is proposed.
The other zoning issue was density. Based on the city’s multi-family zoning district, the developer would be required to have a density of 3,000 square feet per unit.
Maniaci said that requirement is mostly for new developments that start with a clean slate. This project has an existing structure and changing the density would make the project “not compatible to the market.”
Maniaci said he supports the proposed 1,727 square foot per unit density as proposed.
A number of neighbors surrounding the property expressed concerns about the project. Most said they were in favor of the development and excited to see something happen to the shoe factory.
However, parking was a big concern. The neighbors expressed fear of the apartment complex monopolizing street parking in the area.
Maniaci was able to calm some fears by explaining city regulations. He said, based on city ordinance, people can’t park their vehicle in front of someone else’s house after 10 p.m. He also said police can enforce the issue if necessary.
He said tenants of the apartment complex likely would be made aware of the ordinance.
Some residents suggested parking alternatives. Tim Buddemeyer suggested buying up another lot and using it for parking.
Karen Burns suggested a second-level of parking. Schmelz said that would be too expensive.
Only one speaker, Karen Day, said the commission should reject the plan based on the parking. Day said the developer should build fewer units. She said the developer could charge more in rent in order to get high-quality renters.
The commission didn’t have any objections to the plans.
Commissioner Tony Gokenbach said if there would be any future parking issues, the city has options. For example, he said a street surrounding the development could be turned into a one-way street to get a number of additional spots.
Commissioner Carolyn Witt said she was pleased that some development would be coming.
The commission voted unanimously to approve the rezoning.