In a 5-0 vote the Healdsburg Planning Commission gave the go-ahead and approved the design for a 41-unit affordable housing project as a part of Replay’s development of the Mill District.
The development will be located on Exchange Avenue between McDonald’s and Double O Mini Storage and will feature a community garden, an outdoor kids playground, second and third floor townhomes and smaller, one-bedroom flats on the fourth floor.
Commissioners made their unanimous decision after the applicant’s architect team reviewed the changes made to the project after the initial May 28 design review workshop where commissioners pointed out several design features, such as the color palette, that they wanted to see re-worked.
During the May workshop there was consensus that the building’s white and beige color palette was too “institutional” looking and that the top and bottom of the building lacked clear definition.
Commissioners also did not like the look of the solar panels, the trellis on the front entrance and the south stairwell. Some also thought the community garden should have more passive space for relaxing.
“Based on the proposed plans the applicant has revised the colors to be warmer earth tones, and for the definition of the base and top the applicant has added horizontal siding to the top in between the fourth floor windows and darkened the color of the base to a darker color,” said Healdsburg Senior Planner, Shaunn Mendrin.
The applicant team, with Pyatok Architecture and Urban Design, also adjusted the support system for the solar panels to make it look more “intentional,” rather than having the panels stick off of the edge.
The trellis by the lobby entrance was also opened up, reducing the amount of brackets on top. They switched out the stucco columns for wood posts and added the building sign, “The Exchange.”
“The community garden area has been simplified with the number of garden beds reduced and more outdoor seating areas provided,” Mendrin said.
In terms of the south stairwell, which commissioners thought looked plain, a warmer corrugated material with a weathered appearance was added.
Architects also provided more information on the landscaping, specifically the screening near the fence on the McDonald’s side of the project.
Proposed landscaping for the area includes the bowhall maple, a deciduous tree that can grow up to 35 feet.
Commissioners generally liked all of the changes that were made, however, they were concerned that the trees wouldn’t provide much shading during the winter months when they lose their leaves.
Commissioner Phil Luks suggested bamboo for screening and Commissioner Vesna Breznikar suggested a faster growing evergreen tree. They eventually settled on the maple since maples often take root quicker.
In the end, commissioners were pleased with the design results.
Breznikar said she thinks the building looks wonderful with the rich colors.
Commissioner Richard Bottarini said the definition of the building was outstanding and that the overall look has a good mix of design elements.
Colleen Carmichael, the executive director for Reach for Home, said she is very excited for the development.
“Anytime I hear the word affordable I get kind of excited ... and they (Replay) are one of the only developers that I’ve ever spoken with in the city of Healdsburg who was interested in talking with Reach for Home and finding out what we needed for our clients, so that should say something for you, because it did to me ... I hope to see that our clients are placed in the housing very soon,” Carmichael said at the meeting.
Residents were also excited about the prospect of more affordable housing.
Resident Richard Burg said he was “very much in support of this project and the way it looks.”
Resident Gail Jonas brought up a concern regarding the length of time it took to get the project approved and urged the commission to OK the project.
“I’ve watched them bend over backward to do everything they can to make this a good project for Healdsburg and I urge you tonight to approve this project with the revisions they have made in good faith. I think it is a great project and it is the only project in 53 years that I have been supportive of,” Jonas said.
Commissioner Chairperson Jeff Civian said he’s supportive of the design changes and appreciates the work that has been done.