VOL. 132 | NO. 50 | Friday, March 10, 2017
Land Use Control Board Nixes Downtown Street Closure
By Patrick Lantrip
A developer’s plan to close a Downtown street was shot down by the Land Use Control Board on Thursday, March 9.
The applicant, ECG Acquisitions, wanted to close and vacate a portion of Pontotoc Avenue between Turley Street and Danny Thomas Boulevard to create a cohesive multifamily development that spans five parcels north and south of Pontotoc.
John Perry, with Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc., represented ECG and the land owner, Linden Hotels, according to the application.
Their stated intention behind the closure was to create a more family-friendly atmosphere for the multifamily development. The plans also involve closing part of a public alley that lies between 440 & 448 Vance Ave.
Residents and business owners complained about the effects the closure would have on an already crowded area, especially before and after basketball games and other events held at nearby FedExForum.
The applicant countered that the closure of the right-of-way and alley would not have an undue or substantial effect on existing vehicular and pedestrian traffic surrounding the area.
John Shepard, vice president of multifamily acquisitions at Elmington Capital Group, said the street closure wasn’t their first choice, but it was necessary to provide off-street parking for the development.
“Our first attempt was to design the site in a way that wouldn’t require (the closure), but in order to provide the level of parking, amenities and landscaping, it was necessary,” he told the board.
Shepard also argued that the effects of the street closure on the city were not all negative.
“Part of the goal is to have a dynamic, populated, pedestrian-oriented neighborhood on the verge of Downtown, and to do that, you obviously need residents,” he said. “We’re going to provide 200 new households here that will be utilizing the street.”
However, members of the Land Use Control Board also expressed their concerns about the closure’s impact on public access.
“I really have major concerns about this,” board member Robert Norcross said. “I’m not looking at what happens today, I’m looking at will happen 30 years from now, and I don’t think this is a good idea for the neighborhood to close roads – we need those connections.”
Most significantly, Norcross said the closure would cut off Foote Homes from the rest of Downtown.
“We want to have space for everybody,” Norcross said. “And we’re making it a private space when we put a big fence around it and take the road out.”
After deliberation, the board voted unanimously against the project.