Mellow Mushroom agrees to new site plan

Mellow Mushroom agrees to new site plan

We Love Avondale group says plans still ‘too big’

 

By Susanna P. Barton
Resident Community News

Continued summer talks between Mellow Mushroom owners and ruffled neighborhood partnership, We Love Avondale LLC, have yielded a compromise for the Shoppes of Avondale restaurant. But not everyone is satisfied.
Mellow Mushroom’s new plans include a monumental concession — razing the existing vacant gas station building on the site. Mellow Mushroom intended to use the building in an adaptive reuse scenario with streetside green space and outdoor seating designed by San Marco-based, Design Cooperative. But new plans take the gas station out of the equation completely, instead showing a new building closer to St. Johns Avenue with parking spaces behind it.
Mellow Mushroom’s latest plans were proposed at the Jacksonville City Council’s Land Use and Zoning committee meeting in late August and were deferred until September 5. Mellow Mushroom also presented plans to the Jacksonville HIstoric Preservation Commission for a Certificate of Appropriateness in late August. That board also deferred the hearing until September, scheduling a new hearing for the revised plans on Sep. 19. The planning commission hearing has been deferred until Sep. 27.  Mellow Mushroom seeks to withdraw its PUD request and instead file an administrative deviation and exception for the 210-seat restaurant, planned in the old gas station building and adjacent shop space at St. Johns and Ingleside avenues.
We Love Avondale leaders are not altogether pleased with the downsized plans. Group leaders have been adamant that the restaurant’s original plans were too intense for the already parking- and safety-stressed neighborhood. The new plans are an improvement, they say, but not enough of one. The number of seats and the amount of parking continue to be sticking points.
“Our position is we’re not sure whether it’s a good thing or not yet,” said We Love Avondale founder, Tommy Donahoo. “There is still debate going on — they have scaled back their size, but 235+ seats is still intense. That still has to get an exception under the code. We’re not going to give in on that.”
As the Historic District’s commercial corridors begin to reach a “tipping point” with parking and related issues, Donahoo said city ordinances must be respected.
“We are continuing to work with the applicant — our position still remains that the size and scale needs  to be a fit and the community feels strongly that [Mellow Mushroom] needs to follow local ordinance and code — in this environment, meeting code is extremely important.”
Mellow Mushroom spokesperson, Simon Keymer of Keymer Inc., said restaurant owner John Valentino and the development team continue to meet with We Love Avondale and Riverside Avondale Preservation.
“As you can see, we have gone a long way to being responsive to the neighborhood,” Keymer explained. “We hope that this is recognized by all of those involved and we can continue to work together, as neighbors, to resolve any outstanding issues.”
Mellow Mushroom shared details of the proposed restaurant changes on its website, igetmellow.com, in late August. Keymer explained the design changes in an email:
• We will not pursue our original plan for adaptive reuse of the gas station, and, at this stage, have agreed to demolish it and build a new building on the street with a brand new parking lot behind it;
• The new building will significantly reduce our originally proposed outdoor dining and large landscaped open space, in order to accommodate on-site parking;
• After agreeing to the above changes , Mellow proposed outdoor dining on the second floor of the new building to compensate for lost outdoor dining; Mellow recently agreed to abandon plans for a second story outside dining area, after additional discussions;
• We have reduced seats from an originally conceived 250 to 210;
• Mellow originally proposed to maximize parking by removing a landscape island on St. Johns Avenue and relocating a tree; Mellow has agreed to restore the parking island, despite loss of parking, at neighbors’ request;
• Mellow originally proposed “soft” covered outdoor dining at the corner of St. Johns and Ingleside; Mellow has agreed to constrict “hard” covered outdoor dining at the corner at neighbors’ request.
Keymer also addressed community requests for certain operational changes. He said some of the restrictions suggested by We Love Avondale and RAP include : no music or television sound played in the outside area, including the patio, after 9 p.m.; closing at midnight; no outside live music; no uses allowed in the parking lot area except parking and deliveries between the hours of 9 a.m. and
5 p.m.; and security should be provided to prevent nuisance behavior on Friday and Saturday evenings.
“We are concerned about ‘fairness’ here — Artificially restricting Mellow’s ability to compete for  customers with other local restaurants, sets a dangerous precedent for the neighborhood,” Keymer said.  He added Mellow Mushroom also agreed to provide full food service during all times when alcohol is served and would not have live amplified music after midnight. “Restaurants should compete on an equal footing based around food quality, value-for-money and service. Most people understand that.”

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