Nearly 50 neighbors turned out to discuss the proposed plans to redevelop the church at Fatherland Ave. and N.17th St into a restaurant and boutique hotel.
Councilman Brett Withers hosted the meeting at the Shelby Community Center on Wednesday night and explained various zoning options to the crowd. Developer John Donelson, who now owns the church, fielded a wide range of questions from the crowd but many expressed concerns about increased noise, traffic, and parking in the neighborhood.
Here is what happened at the meeting:
Brett pointed out that this conversation is one that we will likely have many more times since we have many churches in historic buildings that are gradually losing numbers and thus financial support. We have to ask ourselves, “do we think the building is worth preserving?” and “what concessions are we willing to make to the developer in order to get the things we want?”.
Gina Emmanuel, architect for the project, explained the plan as it currently exists. The restaurant will be approximately 5000 square feet, there will be a roof deck with two offices that cannot be seen from the street per MHZ, and 10 boutique hotel rooms in the 1951 addition. The event space was removed after two public meetings when the neighbors expressed concerns about this portion of the plan. In order to park this use, John Donelson has an agreement with the owner of the lot behind the church facing 17th. With the Neighborhood Landmark zoning tool, he can build a parking lot there with 16 spaces. It will be highly screened so that cars and car lights are not visible from the street. The lot will be environmentally friendly with some sort of pervious pavers.
Gina explained that current codes require a certain number of spaces for each use. The restaurant must have 32 spaces and the hotel must have 11 for a total of 43. Because the property is in an area with contiguous sidewalks and public transit, a 20% reduction is allowed by code. This reduces the number of spaces the developer is required to have to 35. If we subtract the 16 spaces they will build on the lot behind the church, that means they must have 19 additional spaces. John Donelson has reached an agreement with the church at 17th and Shelby for 25 spaces, exceeding the required number by 6 spaces. He is also in discussion with Liberty Baptist for an additional 20 spaces.
- Some are extremely opposed to the event space
- Some like the event space because the impact is more limited.
- Some think a restaurant of this size will be very disruptive in terms of traffic, parking, smells, etc.
- Some are very supportive of a restaurant and think it will add to the neighborhood.
- There did not seem to be any objection to the boutique hotel. Many like the idea and think it will have the least impact on the neighborhood.
- John Donelson was asked if there is any other possible use that would save the building but
not bring traffic and parking problems to the corner.
- Overall, many neighbors fear a change in the culture of the street and want a use that will keep this change minimal.
- Some think that getting resident parking permits is a good idea. I express concern that this just pushes the problem out; it does not solve the problem.
- Some express support for the idea of bringing new people, and their dollars, into the neighborhood.
- Tourism is good for the city in more than just dollars. It brings new ideas and new people and that is a good thing.
- Neighbors don’t want to lose the ability to park in front of their homes.
- Some would like to see more hotel rooms.
- Is this inevitable or are there other options?
-Elizabeth Smith, email@example.com