We were so excited to attend the Hawthorne Empowerment Coalition meeting last November where developer Bart Blatstein presented his plans for the long-vacant lot at the northeast corner of Broad & Washington. We can't say we expected the project would be in the ground by now, but we were at least hopeful. Alas, the property still sits vacant, as it has for so many years.

The crappy present

Project rendering

A refresher, the project four stories of retail, a parking garage with over 700 parking spots, and two residential towers, each with 500 to 800 units. Beyer Blinder Belle did the design work, and while we would think the project could benefit from some fine-tuning, it looks like a reasonable build considering the size and location of the property. But it appears the community isn't necessarily in love with the project. Recently, someone posted a flyer on Facebook indicating significant changes that the HEC board would like to see.

Flyer from HEC

Some of the recommendations fall into the categories of tweaks that would benefit the project. Eliminating blank walls on 13th Street seems like a great idea, and we would similarly support limiting delivery hours. Some of the other ideas are more troubling. At the meeting, a resident asked the developer whether he would consider reducing the height of the residential towers and he answered that he didn't wish to reduce the height just to say that he reduced the height. What would be the reason for reducing the height of the tower on 13th Street to an arbitrary 50 feet except to say that the height was reduced?

The loading dock issue is another one that raises questions. We've seen Washington Avenue's walkability and bikeability crippled west of Broad Street because of all the truck loading and unloading in front of businesses. Creating a massive curb cut in front of this project would do the same, and seriously hamper its, uh, curb appeal. Someone on Facebook suggested combining the parking lot entrance with the loading entrance to eliminate a curb cut and this sounds like a nice thought if feasible. But whether it's one curb cut or two, the access should come from the 1300 block of Carpenter Street. And if the community is concerned about car and truck traffic through the neighborhood to get there, then a better solution would be to change the traffic direction on this block and make it an eastbound street, perhaps all the way to 11th Street. This seems to be working out just fine on Ellsworth, in case the Streets Department needs a model.

As for parking, eh, we're just not gonna go there.

To be clear, the flyer is not a list of demands nor is it the final word on the project. As you can see at the bottom, HEC is actively looking for recommendations from the community which they will then present to the developer. How would you change this project? What do you think of the HEC board suggestions?