Midtown developer courts the carless

Courtesy of el dorado inc.

Plan for the project. Courtesy of el dorado inc.

Car ownership was once rare in Midtown, as people took buses, streetcars, walked or biked.

In a kind of return to those roots, a Midtown mixed-use project would push for renters who don’t own cars.

The City Plan Commission on Tuesday recommended approval of the project involving the vacant old Velvet Freeze building at the northeast corner of Gillham Road and 31st St.

velvet freeze

The building as it looks today.

It would have 3,000 square feet of ground floor commercial space, such as a restaurant, and 35 apartments above it.

Just to the north would be a new four-story apartment building above a parking garage. The entire project would provide 122 apartments, and they and the commercial space would normally require 156 parking spaces. The developer only proposes 56 on site.

But city staff is ready to deal – they recommend requiring only 75 percent of the required 156 spaces.

That is because there will be a bus stop at the ready and bike storage for each apartment, along with things like a bike wash station.

“We’ll be on the leading edge of transit oriented developments in the city,” said David Water, attorney for architect El Dorado Inc. and developer Epoch Developments.

Neighbors support the project but are concerned parking shortfalls there could clog their streets if too many tenants own cars.

To help reach the needed parking level, the developer has a pledge from the owner of a vacant lot to provide 41 more parking spaces.

That still leaves a shortage of fewer than 10 spaces to get to 75 percent of what is required. Staff and neighbors, for the first time,  recommended the developer put in some leases that tenants could not have cars. The developer was willing.

But Commissioner the Rev. Stan Archie would not accept wording that people could not own cars.

So all agreed to have lawyers craft some wording that tenants could not park vehicles in a way that impacts the neighborhood.

Waters also said developers could also provide bike-sharing contracts and some Uber credits to carless tenants.

There were many workers without cars, but no Uber, when the building opened in 1925 as Levy Brothers Meat and Provision Co. From the 1940s to 1985, it was the Velvet Freeze Ice Cream building.

Before the last Midtown streetcars closed in the 1950s, parents and children often stepped off them to eat that ice cream.


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