By Nancy Moors
Editor’s note: Nancy Moors is responding to a guest editorial by Benjamin Nicholls, “HBA: yes to National Main Street Program, no to historic district” [Volume 7, Issue 24 or bit.ly/1RjVyHL]
Unfortunately, once more, Benjamin Nicholls, Executive Director of the Hillcrest Business Association (HBA), has weaved a tale, spinning his version of what historic districts are; the history of planned boutique hotels in the neighborhood; how the Interim Height Ordinance (IHO) has affected Hillcrest; and the creation of a National Main Street Program.
Ben says: “This proposed district would put any new development in the heart of downtown Hillcrest in peril by creating a special review process.”
In reality, historic districts provide more certainty to both residents and developers about the historic value of properties.
In a historic district, property has already been separated into “contributing” and “non-contributing” categories. The contributing properties must follow preservation guidelines. The non-contributing properties have very few restrictions.
Historic districts are good for owners, for developers, and for the community!
Ben says: “Under this new historic district proposal, the former Pernicano’s restaurant would be locked up in the development review process for an indefinite period of time.”
In reality, the Pernicano family has stated on numerous occasions that they are waiting until the Uptown Community Plan update is finalized so they can have certainty in regards to their development. Once the plan is finalized and if a historic district is established, the Pernicanos will know whether their property falls into the “contributing” or “non-contributing” category.
Ben says: “Hillcrest has a mandatory 65-feet height ordinance that was supposed to be temporary but has now been in effect for almost 10 years.”
In reality, the Interim Height Ordinance was an effort driven by the neighborhood.
A survey by Uptown Planners in 2006 showed that over 80 percent of those surveyed supported the ordinance. The IHO was endorsed by many organizations, including the Hillcrest Town Council, Save Our Heritage Organisation, Mission Hills Business Improvement District, the University Heights Community Development Corp., Save Hillcrest, Mission Hills Heritage … and the Hillcrest Business Association.
The IHO was approved and extended by the City Council on several occasions. The last time the IHO came before the City Council, the council agreed that the sensible thing to do was to place the IHO in affect until the Uptown Community Plan update is finalized.
For the record, the Hillcrest Town Council (HTC) approved the following resolution in January 2014. It stated:
“For those areas in Hillcrest covered by the Interim Height Ordinance, the HTC recommends a 50-foot height limit. Heights up to 65 feet can be considered based on discretionary review.
“On Fourth Avenue between Robinson & Upas, the height limit should be 32 feet, with heights up to 50 feet to be considered based on discretionary review.”
The HTC offered no support at any time to heights over 50 feet to 65 feet in Hillcrest.
Ben says: “I am reminded that this would be the third time a developer has proposed a boutique hotel in Hillcrest and the third time these kinds of restrictions contributed to halting it.”
In reality, the first proposed boutique hotel was at Third and University. The project developer proposed a 72-foot-tall hotel. But the Uptown Planners unanimously approved a building height of 65 feet or lower. The developer agreed but was unable to secure financing during the downturn in the economy and did not move forward. The brief talk of a boutique hotel was on Fifth Avenue between University and Washington. It was short-lived and never took the first step of presenting to the Uptown Planners.
Lastly, the HBA has been talking about joining the Main Street organization since 2010. So far it’s been all talk and no action.
—Nancy Moors is co-founder of the Hillcrest History Guild and past president of the Hillcrest Business Association.