Neighbors around Santa Fe Drive are preparing for at least 100 additional residences on the art district’s north end, and they say they’re pleased to have had their voices heard. While development has conjured fears that the creative drag might lose its flair, neighbors say the project represents an opportunity to extend Santa Fe’s creative stretch (and First Friday foot traffic) a little bit farther to the north.
Designer Bruce Ivins had already met with La Alma-Lincoln Park Neighborhood Association board members about 1225 Santa Fe Drive, and even redrawn designs to get their blessing. His initial plan proposed 162 units and 8 stories pushed as close to the street as normal zoning would allow.
At a meeting last month, Ivins made his first public presentation of the plan, bringing revised drawings of the eight-story, multi-use project set to replace the parking lots next to The Molecule Effect coffee shop. He said the design now included fewer than 150 units and setbacks above the fifth floor were increased so that it’s harder to see the buildings’ top floors.
The plan includes micro apartments, in an attempt to achieve affordability in a desirable neighborhood — Ivins said the cost per square foot will be market rate, so it’ll take smaller spaces to get lower costs. The first floor will be available for commercial use.
There was still a murmur from someone in the crowd that, maybe, the building looked too symmetrical. But, overall, the neighbors seemed pleased to be on board.
“We’ve been lucky to have cooperative people coming in and listening,” said Ann Nguyen, an association member who also works as an urban planner. Nguyen helped pen the RiNo neighborhood overlay, a set of additional rules for development, and now she’s working with Lincoln Park (where she lives) to try to shape Santa Fe Drive’s future.
But Santa Fe’s overlay is still just a twinkle in the neighborhood association’s eye. It is nowhere close to influencing a project like 1225. Thus, she and her neighbors are glad to have some say.
“As long-term residents of the La Alma-Lincoln Park neighborhood,” she said, “we’ll support your business if you support us too. I think we’re very likely to have that relationship.”
For Nguyen and her neighbors, a big part of that support has more to do with what goes in the building than how it looks. The design overlay that she and her neighbors are tinkering with will focus on use, an attempt to keep art spaces and essential services central on their main street.
“It could really be the anchor of that end of Santa Fe,” she said, “a threshold for entering into First Friday.”
The street’s appeal kind of peters out on its north end at the moment, she said. The long strip of windowed commercial space beneath 1225’s residences could be a new gallery or a barber shop, something to attract people to Santa Fe’s northern end and support business between it and El Taco De Mexico.
“We’re not talking about 100 percent art galleries. We know that’s not sustainable,” said Stella Yu, who’s married to Griggs and another active member of the neighborhood group. In addition to galleries, she said, she could see goods and services that support them.
There’s an increasing amount of attention on changes — and possible threats — coming to the district’s artistic vibe.
The Chicano Humanities and Arts Council, known as CHAC, was one of the first galleries contributing to a cultural district along Santa Fe and was recently priced out of their longtime spot at 8th Avenue. That spooked locals like David Griggs, who opened a Santa Fe gallery in the ’70s and became a active with the neighborhood association.
“With development that is upscale,” he said, “the art district could quickly disappear.”
There’s no telling what kind of business will move in to 1225’s first floor — Cisneros was not available for comment — but, since Ivins came around with plans and revisions, people like Griggs and Nguyen are feeling optimistic.
“I feel like they responded,” he said. “They want to be a part of the neighborhood, they want to be a place where people go to on a First Friday, even though it’s a couple blocks north.”
Correction: David Griggs’ last name was originally spelled incorrectly as “Riggs”