ONNI will face the public one more time on its proposal for a massive redevelopment of the Safeway site at Lonsdale and 13th Monday, bringing back a revised design meant to win over some of the project's critics.
The public hearing about Onni's plan for 180-and 240-foot condo towers housing 344 units atop a commercial podium and 40,000-square feet of office space will start with a presentation by the developer that details the major changes.
The biggest change since the last time the public saw the proposal is removing vehicle access to the site via 14th Street, which will now be, mostly, a pedestrian thoroughfare.
"Even though we had a traffic impact assessment that was completed by professional engineers that said this whole situation would operate above satisfactory levels, there was a lot of dismay," said Beau Jarvis, Onni's vice-president of development. "Fourteenth Street, in the (official community plan), was meant to be a pedestrian-oriented street that was anchored by the hospital and city hall. . . . We said 'Fine, what can we do about this'? and we said 'Let's just get rid of it.'"
All resident, customer and truck traffic will now enter and exit the property via 13th Street, using a new set of traffic lights. To make that work, Onni has told prospective grocery store and commercial space tenants that they will have to limit the size of their delivery trucks.
"We've spoken with the folks who are part of the citizens' group for 14th Street and they're very, very happy with this situation," Jarvis said.
The lane off 14th, which was planned to take 45 per cent of vehicle traffic and all the commercial loading traffic, will still be used for loading access for the
storefronts along Lonsdale, which are not included in the redevelopment.
The project's architects are moving the north building six feet back from the sidewalk on 14th, while the commercial building is moving 11 feet back from Stella Jo Dean Plaza and nine feet back from the Grande condo building to the east, which should open space in the plaza and allow more natural light in. The developer is also planning to use a green wall design for the walls that face the plaza.
"It seems like a minor thing that was simple, but it was a lot of work," Jarvis said.
Thirteenth Street will also now be fronted with individual storefronts, rather than a concrete wall. The changes appear to address concerns about the project expressed by Coun. Don Bell the last time it was discussed at council.
The overall height and density for the project, however, remain the same. In exchange for almost double the density the official community plan calls for, Onni is putting up 10,000 square feet of non-profit housing (approximately 12 units), childcare space, a $1-million contribution to the city's amenity fund, a connection to the Lonsdale Energy Corporation, infrastructure upgrades to the surrounding streets and utilities, $250,000 in public art, and using green building standards.
It has been a long and bumpy ride for the developer, the community and council dealing with project over the last two years. It seemed to be derailed completely in December when Onni's president announced he would withdraw its application after council voted to hold a second public hearing.
The first public hearing drew finger-pointing over unfair practices and manipulation by Onni, which Jarvis maintains the company did not do.
But Monday's meeting should go much smoother, according to Mayor Darrell Mussatto.
Speakers who wish to sign up must do so in person when the speakers' lists are posted at 4: 30 p.m. Speakers will be called alternately between supporters and opponents of the project, depending on which list they've signed up for beforehand. Mussatto said he will adjourn the public hearing by 11 p.m. and the city has booked extra time on Tuesday night to resume the public hearing if there are people who didn't get a chance to speak Monday.
Ultimately though, he would like to see council debate and vote on the issue on Monday.
"I think everybody, whether you're the developer, the city or, most importantly, the local residents, wants a decision because it's been around for a long time now. I don't think there's one person who wants to carry this on longer and longer," he said.
The sentiment is echoed by Jarvis.
'I don't know where this is going on Monday night. At the end of the day, we'd like to just get a vote," he said.