Let’s examine a bit more closely the 10th Street Medical Corridor Plan, prepared through the 10th Street Medical District. This was a private organization founded after the city and county agreed to address problems in MidTown that had St. Anthony Hospital pondering a move away from the urban core.
It’s a group that has done a lot of good for MidTown. But it’s a private group – one that denied me access to its deliberations as it considered housing proposals for property it controls at NW 10 and Hudson (the deal ultimately went to a hospice group, though we’ve yet to see any work commence).
The Heritage Hills residents opposing The Edge repeatedly quote from a study done with the 10th Street Medical Corridor, in which one section is devoted to the former Mercy hospital block. Planning Director Russell Claus noted the study was a snapshot in time, one that was written to address the area as it existed in 2005/2006 – before the emergence of the Walker Avenue shops and revitalization of several former flop houses in MidTown into upscale apartments. It is a document that was intended to be guidance, but not a statutory restriction, to development of the area. Note that within the language of this section is its own description – “design recommendations.” No more, no less.
The section of the study addressing the Mercy hospital block, set to be developed as The Edge, is presented for readers to decide for themselves the significance of the document six years after it was written:
Opportunity Area “A” comprises a single vacant parcel two blocks north of St. Anthony and directly adjacent to the residential neighborhoods of Heritage Hills and Mesta Park. The block has great access and visibility from both 13th Street and Walker Avenue. This 3.2-acre site is ideal for new moderate-density residential development to serve the needs of the hospital employees and others working in the area and downtown.
New residential uses south of 13th Street will advance the broader objective of developing this area as a transition zone between the neighborhoods to the north and downtown to the south. Medium-density housing would be most effective in tying these areas together. Because the site is already vacant and owned by a single entity—a city agency involved in redevelopment—this area is well suited to be developed early, as one of the first major residential construction projects in the district.
Given the proximity of this site to the southern boundary of Heritage Hills, the character and scale of the architecture should address the edges of the site in different ways. At 3.2 acres, the site is large enough to accommodate a range of housing configurations. Several housing types can be dispersed on the site, with smaller footprints facing 13th Street and larger buildings oriented to the south and 12th Street. This variation in scale will help to create the desired transition from the residential scale of northern neighborhoods to the institutional scale of St. Anthony.
Access to parking for the new development should be located off of Dewey and Walker streets so that additional curb-cuts off of 13th Street are not required. The parcel is large enough for surface parking to be in the middle of the site surrounded by buildings that shield the parking from the street. In addition to parking on the interior of the block, on-street parking should be encouraged.
Urban design recommendations for Opportunity Area A:
Surface parking for new residential development should be kept to the inside of the block, shielded by buildings that form its perimeter. Direct driveway access to the site from 13th Street should not be permitted; parking access should occur from the north-south streets of Dewey and Walker.
Residential density on the site should range between 25 to 40 units per acre. Some small-scale, ground-level commercial uses could occupy the corner of 13th and Walker, drawing pedestrian activity from the restaurant and commercial uses beginning to cluster on Walker Avenue to the south.
Release the Request for Proposals (RFP) for developers to redevelop this site calling for new residential
Initiate a site survey and subsurface exploration to identify any potential obstacles to development such as utility lines and abandoned foundations from the former Mercy Hospital.