RiverVue garage sparks concerns; developer adhering to plan

RiverVue garage sparks concerns;  developer  adhering to plan
The gap between the parking garage and the sidewalk along St. Johns Avenue will be filled with townhomes at RiverVue.

After the two-story parking garage went up at RiverVue, the new apartment complex on St. Johns Avenue at Fishweir Creek, Avondale residents began “seeing red” or, more accurately, a lot of gray.

When Chance Partners LLC’s planned unit development (PUD) was
initially submitted two years ago, the only barrier indicated for a narrow area between the street and the garage was a “green screen” (trellis, lattice, or mesh with vegetation).

The final PUD for RiverVue indicates two townhouse buildings will be constructed adjacent to the parking garage.

The final PUD for RiverVue indicates two townhouse buildings will be constructed adjacent to the parking garage.

Pushback by concerned residents resulted in a change to the PUD, approved Sept. 22, 2016, which stated “The parking garage shall not exceed two elevated levels and will be screened along the St. Johns Avenue frontage by the townhome residential units, vegetation, and a ‘Green Screen’ (trellis, lattice, or mesh with vegetation) and from Fishweir Creek by the Green Screen and existing creekfront vegetation.”

After a July 2017 groundbreaking, the project progressed rapidly and by the end of the year, five of the seven residential units appeared to be well underway on the property, except next to the parking garage. Complaints began to be raised with City officials and Riverside Avondale Preservation after the concrete garage was constructed in January and it appeared the large expanse of gray concrete would be the “face” of the development along St. Johns Avenue.

“Our office has received numerous complaints (and voiced concerns) as to the location and appearance of the parking lot structure / setback being constructed within the RiverVue project / PUD. Is the project on track – without variations or modifications – in accordance with the plans that were submitted and approved?” asked Kevin Kuzel, executive assistant to District 14 Councilman Jim Love, in a Feb. 12 email to Folks Huxford, Chief, Current Planning Division, Planning and Development Department.

Huxford responded that he and Planning Director William Killingsworth “went out to personally inspect [the site] this afternoon (Feb. 12). Although the residential units between the parking garage and St. Johns Avenue are not under construction, they are depicted on the renderings submitted with the PUD Verification,” said Huxford in his email. “I do not know the timeline for construction, but it’s possible that they are waiting for the garage to be finished before moving on to constructing the residential units. Given that the site remains a work in progress, we didn’t observe any violations to the PUD.”

According to Chance Partners’ Jeff Rosen, the plans as approved will be executed with two buildings of two townhomes in the 18-to-20-foot-wide space in front of the garage. Rosen said there will be a very narrow space between the back of the townhomes and the garage wall and there will be no windows on the rear of the buildings.

A rendering of the townhomes proposed to be constructed in front of the two-story parking garage at RiverVue.

A rendering of the townhomes proposed to be constructed in front of the two-story parking garage at RiverVue.

“The developers and I have told everyone who has contacted us that this is simply a matter of necessary construction staging. The developers are complying, and have every intention of complying, with the approved plans,” said T.R. Hainline, attorney representing the developers. “This is a construction site. Buildings are being built in stages. We don’t mind continuous inspections. We ask, also, for people’s patience in dealing with a site under construction.”

RAP also fielded a number of questions on the issue, but new Board Chair Nancy Powell is also concerned about traffic on St. Johns Avenue.

“This also highlights the need to get a focused effort on the S-curve and the road narrowing, widening sidewalks, and putting in a green right of way, or I’m afraid there will be accidents,” she said in an email to Love and Kuzel. “As you know, there is no curb there – the road flows right into the sidewalk, which will also go right up against the townhouses that will front the street. On that front, the RAP Transportation group will be seeking to set up a meeting with the FDOT soon.”

The project began 17 months after Chance Partners LLC acquired the 5.78-acre property in March 2016 for $5.8 million. A total of 228 units will be available among the seven buildings, including 88 units in the renovated tower formerly known as Commander Apartments. RiverVue will offer one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, ranging from 620 to 1,400 square feet. Pre-leasing was expected to begin in late March, with occupancy sometime this summer.

By Kate A. Hallock,
Resident Community News

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