Goshen News, Goshen, IN

July 10, 2013

Compromise met in River Race project

By JOHN KLINE
THE GOSHEN NEWS

— GOSHEN — Two heads are apparently better than one, at least when it comes to the Goshen Redevelopment Commission.

Such was the message presented by the RDC Tuesday afternoon, when commission members approved a resolution that allows the commission more flexibility in working with multiple developers — rather than a single developer —  when considering a viable plan for Goshen’s pending River Race redevelopment project.

The move is in response to the commission’s June meeting, where commission members deliberated for nearly an hour over which of two proposals would be best for the upcoming River Race 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.

At the time of the June meeting, two distinct proposals were on the table for the project: the more suburban Millrace Neighborhood proposal by Goshen residents Mary Meyer and Richard Miller, and the more urban Millrace Townhomes and Flats proposal by David Matthews of South Bend-based Matthews LLC.

The Options

The “Millrace Neighborhood” 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 “Millrace Townhomes and Flats” 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 (in)decision

Unable to decide on which of the two proposals they liked during their June meeting, the commission decided to table the proposal for 30 days in order to give staff and the two potential developers a chance to discuss the possibilities of both entities being involved in the project.

In an effort to determine how such a plan might be developed, a meeting was set for June 24 during which members of both development groups joined city planning staff and other invested participants to discuss a possible plan.

“The meeting resulted in a conceptual sketch that both groups felt could allow components of each proposal to move forward on the site, without harming the integrity of either project,” said Mark Brinson, community development director for the city. Brinson noted that a follow-up meeting was scheduled for this past Monday, at which time a more fully detailed conceptual plan was presented.

The plan

In general, the idea behind the conceptual plan involves both entities contributing to the overall scope of the project, with the townhome concept being generally located on the northern portion of the site and the cohousing development concept generally located on the southern portion of the site.

As a way to screen the two developments from one another, Brinson indicated that a section of approximately three rows of trees would be placed along the border between the two developments, and a special “vegetative visual screen” consisting of shrubs and vegetation would be situated along the border of the cohousing development in order to add an additional bufferage area.

“Both developers are prepared to go forward with the concept,” Brinson told the commission Tuesday. “So what we’re proposing to the commission is that you authorize us to go forward with negotiations, and we would then start negotiation with both groups in the same time period. It may take a little longer to get one done than the other, but we would work toward getting actual development agreements ready to bring back to the commission as soon as possible.”

Pleased with the new development, the commission agreed to approve the request to move forward with duel negotiations.

“This looks like a good compromise to start with,” said RDC President Tom Stump. “It looks like it can work. We’re not sure it’s going to work, but that’s what you’re going to work out. So hopefully it will work the way we think it will.

RDC Vice-President Vince Turner agreed.

“I’m appreciative from this standpoint, that you and David (Matthews) and the Miller family, etc., did exactly what we asked you to do,” Turner said to Brinson. “It obviously took some time, and I’m sure that it involved a lot of negotiations and frayed nerves and everything else. So thank you for the extra efforts.”