I received a postcard yesterday urging me to cast a "Yes" vote on the Kensington. As I have stated before, I am on the fence about this one and have yet to make up my mind exactly how I plan to vote. But I have been giving it all some thought, which is what we as citizens in the Democratic Peoples' Republic of Sierra Madre are supposed to do. Or at least so the theory goes.
As I looked over this glossy and quite attractive card it occurred to me that the "architectural perspectives" of this 60,000 square proposed structure often shown to us are quite pleasantly small and in keeping with what we might wish to see in our downtown area.
I have duplicated here one of the iterations of the Kensington provided to us by the developer. It is an earlier representation, and not the current post card version of what is to be built here should Measure ALF carry. The storefronts insisted upon by some folks aren't present, but it is fairly typical of what has been shown to us by the developer over the course of this process. As they so often say. It kind of looks like a ranch estate of some sort. Perhaps something that might fit comfortably onto a lot just down the street from you.
Pictured below are a couple of representations of 60,000 square foot structures that can be found on the Google Images site. I picked these two at random in order to provide another architectural perspective of what a 60,000 square foot building could look like. There are others available on Google Images should you wish to see more. Notice how much larger they appear to be than the Kensington pictures.
But with all of this in mind, is what we have been shown on such things as yesterday's nicely produced post card truly representative of what this building is going to look like once it is built? Or is it actually an attempt to make it seem not quite so large? An issue the developer would likely, and wisely given the intended audience, wish to avoid.
When I have discussed the Kensington with people who are far more familiar with architectural design than I will ever be, that is what comes up the most. People have no idea just how large a building this is going to be, and that there could be some significant buyer's remorse here in town once it gets built.
The written descriptions we have been offered do not give us much real clarity on the size issue either. On Bill Coburn's Sierra Madre News.Net website there is a February 2012 article entitled "Proposed Kensington Assisted Living Facility Project" (click here) that discusses the issue of building size.
The facility design involves a two-story, "H" shaped building envelope totaling approximately 58,000 gross square feet and offering up to 75 resident suites, administrative offices, and resident common areas for dining, living and socializing. Other spaces and facilities will be provided for fitness, physical therapy, wellness activities, along with staff offices, commercial kitchen and commercial laundry. Common use gardens, patios and sitting areas will also be incorporated throughout the facility.
The project sits on 1.84 acres of land, at the corner of Hermosa Ave. and Sierra Madre Blvd., directly across from City Hall, the Police Department and the Fire Station. The project site is made up of two contiguous parcels, the southernmost of which covers about 2/3s of the site, and is zoned commercial, and the northernmost of which is zoned R-3 and covers the remaining 1/3 of the property. The Specific Plan proposes site-specific changes to the General Plan and to Zoning Codes to allow the use of the property for use as an Assisted Living Facility.
As you can clearly see, there is not a lot to go on here, either. Again, not much has been shared on the size and neighborhood perspective issue, though Bill's mastery of antiseptic language is clearly intact. Exactly what kind of impression this building will make upon our downtown area once it is built remains unclear.
One more thought before we call this one finished. Back during the so-called process leading up to Measure ALF being placed on the ballot there was an awful lot of concern given to Measure V. With much of the conversation being about whether we would be getting to vote on the Kensington. The suspicion being that our friends at City Hall, along with the Mayor, were going to use this project as an opportunity to settle some old grudges and beat us out of our right to vote on over-sized downtown projects such as this one. And yes, I was one of those who was very concerned about this.
But lately I have been having some second thoughts. Can it be that maybe we spent a little too much time talking about the vote, and not quite as much on what exactly it is that we will be voting on? Maybe just a little too much about the poke and not enough about the pig?
And rather than concentrating on what exactly this quite possibly humongous pile is going to look like, or exactly how large a presence it is going to have there amongst all of our quaint little shops and businesses, we instead were content to refight the battles of 2007.
Fortunately for us we still do have that vote, and while we might not have properly participated in the kinds of conversation we needed to have back during the planning process, we certainly still have the opportunity and time to have it now.