"Newer, Younger": Bellevue to Pursue Apartment Development in Warehouse
The magnitude of a proposed apartment project in Bellevue was expressed Monday night in a way that blueprints never could.
Whether Covington-based Orleans Development could fit 66 loft apartments in the old Kent warehouse building on Grandview Avenue was never really a physical question, and was instead wrapped up in zoning issues. What the project represents for this River City, though, was a much more important question, one that was expertly tackled by the planning and zoning commission.
Continuing its meeting from last Monday, which took two and a half hours of explanation of the zoning code from zoning administrator Scott Enns and comment from a public made up of both excited and suspicious neighbors, the commission reconvened to deliver its verdict.
Could the site of the Kent building be changed from T5 zoning to T5.5 to allow for unlimited residential dwellings?
Ultimately, the commission voted no, it could not. But the project did not die.
Instead, the motion to deny the request for a zoning change from the building's current owner, local businessman David Hosea, was two-part. The second part creates a new zone especially for Orleans's ambitious proposal. T6 zoning would allow for up to 70 residential dwellings on a 1-acre site and calls for 1.5 parking spaces per unit.
Parking was the major sticking point for opponents of the project. They voiced skepticism that Tony Kreutzjans, the developer who has led Orleans to the forefront of major urban redevelopment projects in Northern Kentucky, could not really provide 66 parking spaces inside the Kent building for his future tenants, while also created an additional 22 spaces down the street off-site. The tenants, opponents argued, would likely have two cars per unit - and those cars would end up on Lafayette or other nearby streets, taking valuable spaces from longtime residents.
They were skeptical that the next generation of Bellevue families and young professionals that would call the Kent Lofts home would not rely exclusively on cars, as Kreutzjans predicted.
All these feelings were summed up in the planning and zoning commission's decision to create the new zone.
"We recognize that among the younger people out there, this group might seem like Jurassic Park," quipped commission member Jim Dady, a jokey reference to the age of most of its members. "We recognize that something newer and younger is pushing up against older Bellevue. Some of us can't get over the idea that someone who could afford a car doesn't use one, or one who could afford a stand-alone home with a driveway would rather rent.
"We want to make way for the new Bellevue. We understand it's coming and we can't stop it - "
"And we wouldn't want to," commission member Jeff Sharp said.
" - we feel as a group," Dady continued, "a lot of what's happening in Bellevue in the private market is not generated by government. We have an opportunity to shape development of this city along those lines."
August 26: It is made known that the Kent Building may be developed, and that some have warned neighbors (falsely) that it would be section-8 housing
September 5: The City of Bellevue cancels its board of adjustment meeting related to the issue, realizing that that board lacks the authority to make requested changes
September 10: City schedules new public meeting, this time before the project goes before any official boards
September 15: Parking concerns emerge as the most repeated in relation to the project
September 26: Planning & Zoning Commission hears from Kreutzjans and the public for the first time in an official capacity
Dady complimented Kreutzjans for his successful projects in Covington. "He is giving us a gift with the adaptive reuse of this ratty old building."
The new zone created by the P&Z commission will require a public hearing before it is made law in the city. Kreutzjans said that he is eager to move forward with the project and would move forward on a development plan.
When completed, the Kent Lofts could be a catalyst for Bellevue's southern gateway.
"My feeling, strongly, is that the context of this building should be seen as part of what has traditionally been called the Bellevue Fill," Dady said, pointing to Donnermeyer Drive and Cover Run, where the Kroger and fast food restaurants are, and where an old Rink's department store once operated. While the concern about the Kent development was centered around the surrounding residential neighborhood, eyes should also look towards the retail center. "We have a melange of uses for that part of town and I see this building as the edge of that as much as this old residential neighborhood."
Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher
Photo: Kent Building in Bellevue (RCN)