The East Design Review Board has sent plans for a four-story mixed use building that will replace City People’s Garden Store back for more changes following the project’s second Early Design Guidance meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 26.

The majority of the concerns for the contentious project at 2925 E. Madison Ave. focused on the Dewey Place side of the structure.

While some attendees and board members acknowledged the architects made improvements to the building based on previous feedback from the July meeting, the board and some community members said the height, scale and bulkiness of the building still did not fit with the single-family home neighborhood along Dewey.

The Board also wanted parking access to be re-evaluated, some trees to be kept, lighting and blank wall concerns to be addressed, more sidewalk space considered on Madison and more housing to be considered as an alternative to a parking garage wall along Dewey.

In the early stages of the project, community members organized to form the group Save Madison Valley, which opposes the building’s mass, loss of trees and wants a smoother transition between the building and neighboring single-family homes.

Save Madison Valley addressed the project again on Wednesday and said it violated many design guidelines, took out trees they would like to see stay, and that the gathering space identified in the project is just the entrance to the grocery store.

“This design fails to give back to its community,” one Save Madison Valley representative said.

The firm on the project, Studio Meng Strazzara, has worked to refine the preferred of three options since the last meeting, which has a stepped design that aims to alleviate the bulkiness of the building on the east side across from single family homes.

Along with another five feet of setback, the designers have also added a mostly-continuous ivy and vine-covered wall and layered landscaping to reduce the amount of visible blank wall along Dewey. The residential levels are also set back an additional five feet in places.

Long-time resident of the area Ed Clark said while he would like the project to move forward, it needs to be done right. He said the scale of the building, cutting down the existing grove of trees and the parking access are three big issues with the project.

Kevin Murphy, a 14-year Madison Valley resident, said he doesn’t feel like the architects applied the community’s feedback. He, and others at the meeting expressed concern about the estimated more than 1,200 vehicles that would be driving to and from the building’s location daily.

Jeff Scott disagreed with Murphy and said he thought the architects have listened to the community and have incorporated many comments.
“I believe they have really put forth a lot of effort to make this design work for the people on Dewey and for the neighborhood in general, and I absolutely believe that this is a great project,” Scott said.

The newest changes to the building made by the architects on the project, Studio Meng Strazzara, would keep the incoming PCC Natural Markets at 25,000 square feet, reduce 1,600 square feet of other retail space by 100 square feet, cut the 75 residential units to 73 and cut 158 parking spaces to 150.

Dianne Casper, an owner and manager at City People’s, said they worked to find the best retailer to replace the garden store.

“When PCC came to the table with (developer) Velmeir we knew we had something that could be amazing for the neighborhood, and we sort of leaped at it,” Casper said.

Casper said it’s time for the project to move forward to bring a quality grocer and housing to the community.

But with the board’s request for the architect to take another look at the design, it will be a while longer before the project is approved to advance to the next phase.