Hearing set for proposed Yesterday’s replacement

Avondale residents will get their chance early in February to sound off about proposed plans to replace local favorite Yesterday’s Bar with an upscale eatery.

The Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a Feb. 5 hearing on the proposal from JPM Avondale Inc. to demolish the long-standing bar that closed last year at Park and Dancy streets and construct a 250-seat restaurant/bar called South Kitchen and Spirits.

Local restaurateur Jason Motley, executive chef Brian Siebenschuh and project architect Jeff Lane are trying to reassure nearby residents that concerns about increased traffic and limited parking will be fully addressed.

“I think in the end it’s going to be a real plus for the neighborhood,” Lane said.

But Carmen Godwin, executive director of Riverside Avondale Preservation, says that’s not stopping some residents from questioning whether the replacement is a good fit.

“We know (the project) is going to have an impact on the traffic in the neighborhood,” Godwin said. “We are trying to find a balance between residences and the businesses.”

A 1,365-square-foot outdoor seating between it and attached neighbor, the restaurant Orsay, would have seating for 69 people. The same area will include a corn hole tournament area, fire pit and possibly live music, although a final decision on music has not been made, Lane said.

That makes noise a concern for neighbors.

“The residents around there are concerned about the effect the project will have on their quality of life,” Godwin said. “Our hope is maybe we can negotiate some things on the front end. That’s always the goal.”

She compares the new 250-seat restaurant to those built at St. Johns Town Center, not Avondale or Riverside, where similar restaurants are typically 150 seats or less.

However, Lane counters that the restaurant will rarely be completely filled, with most days only the 181 interior seats, including those in a four-sided bar, being used.

Another sticking point is parking. Lane notes the restaurant is only allowed to have 39 spots because it’s in the historic district.

“Because we’re in a historic district, that district is trying to encourage people to ride bikes, to walk, ride motorcycles…and because we’re in a historic district our parking requirements are cut in half,” he said.
They plan to leave a large oak tree at the southeast corner of the parking lot, Lane said.

A resident raising concerns about the size and design of the restaurant is Thad Crowe, a trained city planner. “In the perfect world a restaurant with 100 or so fewer seats would be more of scale to the surrounding neighborhood,” said Crowe, who lives on nearby Eloise Street. “After all, the Park and Dancy area does not have the plentitude of public on-street and private lot parking that is in other commercial areas like the Shoppes, [Park and] King Street, 5 Points and Stockton Street.”

Crowe, who submitted his concerns in writing to the historical commission, said he’s not opposed to South Kitchen and Spirits. He only wants the city to “follow the rules…to make it better for all parties concerned: owners, neighbors, and the public.”

Lane, a veteran of several Riverside/Avondale historic district building debates including Kickbacks, said the JPM Avondale Inc. wants public input.

“This is nothing like Kickbacks,” he said.

Lane noted the developers provided RAP with early design proposals and have since addressed concerns about landscaping, designs on windows and knee walls and moved the outdoor seating area to mitigate noise levels into the neighborhood.

Ultimately, however, new construction was the only solution, he said.

“We are taking down a very dilapidated building…there are columns that are so rusted out they don’t even come down to the ground,” Lane said. “We are taking down an 8,900-square-foot building and replacing it with a 7,000-square-foot building. We are redeveloping the parking lot to meet current standards.”

Demolition and construction will take about 10 months. The restaurant could open as early as the first quarter of 2016, Lane said.

Godwin said the key to winning RAP’s approval is a willingness to compromise.

“Over the past seven years (of being with RAP), I have learned that nobody gets exactly what they want,” she said. “Instead you end up with something in the middle that everybody feels like they can live with.”

By Greg Walsh
Resident Community News

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