By JOHN KLINE
THE GOSHEN NEWS
GOSHEN — Why choose one when you can have both?
That seemed to be the general consensus at the Goshen Redevelopment Commission Tuesday where members deliberated for nearly an hour over which of two proposals would be best for the upcoming River Race Redevelopment Project, a huge, two-parcel redevelopment project that includes areas along the millrace such as the old Northern Indiana Public Service Co. building and the old Hawks building.
Two proposals are currently on the table for the project: the more suburban Millrace Neighborhood proposal and the more urban Millrace Townhomes and Flats proposal. The task of the commission Tuesday was to decide which, if any, of the two proposals best fits with what they’d like to see happen with the River Race project.
The “Millrace Neighborhood” is being championed by Goshen residents Mary Meyer and Richard Miller with the assistance of Alan Ediger, senior designer with Interface Architecture and Design of Goshen.
The concept draws primarily from the idea of “cohousing”, a type of collaborative housing in which residents actively participate in the design and operation of their own neighborhoods. The concept keeps the proposed homes smaller and has a design that meshes with the overall feel of the surrounding area and does not clash with nearby neighborhoods. Private homes in a cohousing environment contain all the features of conventional homes, but residents also have access to extensive common facilities such as open space, courtyards, walking paths and playgrounds.
Also up for consideration is the “Millrace Townhomes and Flats” proposal by David Matthews of South Bend-based Matthews LLC.
The Matthews proposal focuses more on a townhouse style of construction along the millrace. While the Matthews plan offers a number of different size and cost options for the proposed homes, the overall look of the plan utilizes a long, block-type construction with rows of three-story townhomes at an average height of about 44 feet. The plan also calls for little to no waterfront property and instead dedicates a majority of the waterfront to community green space.
During Tuesday’s meeting, commission members struggled with the choice of whether to hire one group for the entire two parcel project, or to divide the project in two and have each group develop a parcel.
On one side, several commission members indicated that they liked the quality and urban aesthetics of the Mathews proposal, but felt that the Meyer/Miller project fit in better with the charm and feel of the more suburban surrounding neighborhood. Others on the commission said they felt the scope of the Mathews project was too large, and would like to see it scaled down a bit. Still others said they liked both proposals and would like to see both utilized.
With the commission unable to come up with a definitive decision, city attorney Larry Barkes asked both Matthews and Meyer whether they might be willing to take 30 days to sit down with city planning staff to try to work out a plan that would accommodate both visions, to which both replied in the affirmative.
Commission member Vince Turner echoed Barkes’ suggestion, noting that he felt both plans had a place on the River Race property.
“One of the big wrestling matches for me, just from the aesthetic point of view, is that I believe your projects are where we’re going in the future,” Turner said with regard to Matthews’ proposal. “But I also don’t want to abandon our tradition and those folks who have a good, strong sense of the community that’s already here. I believe there’s a way to do both.”
Goshen Community Development Director Mark Brinson agreed, adding that he and the city’s planning staff would be more than willing to sit down with both groups to discuss the possibility of a collaborative effort on the River Race property.
“We are certainly willing, the staff, to host a planning charette, a sort of brain-storming session to come up with some scenarios that might allow both projects to move forward in a way that doesn’t harm either one,” Brinson said. “So we would be happy to make that effort.”
In the end, the commission voted unanimously to table the proposal in order to give staff and the two potential developers a 30 day window in which to talk about the possibilities of both entities being involved in the project.