Monday, October 13, 2008

Reduce, Reuse, Rezone


Daily News and Cubed have pieces on a proposed rezoning of Austin Street. The proposal would institute height maximum of 40 feet on the south side of Austin street and around 70 feet for the north side. The map of the proposed zone is above with my height maximums in black.

I've read the proposal and it's a lot to go through. It appears like a good thing. I'll try to get a better understanding of if throughout the week, but here are some initial impressions;

It's not a downzone as there are only a handful of existing buildings that would be in violation of the proposal, and they have been around for years. Even the Baharstani boxes on 72nd Ave would be fine.

The plan spends a great deal of time on the area between Yellowstone and 70th rd. between Austin St. and QB. This leads me to believe that the Heskel Hotel plan, now collecting dust, spurred the rezone plan in the first place.

The News reports

"Local officials and residents, worried that the western part of Austin St. near Yellowstone Blvd. is especially vulnerable, have been lobbying for the zoning changes"

Ironically, one of only buildings in violation of the rezone is in that area - Gerard Towers, which I would guess was behind the rezone in the first place. The rezone guarantees the views of the higher floors of those facing all sides, but Northside GT residents 150 feet and below might get blocked. Everyone else's views are saved. I don't know why else they would spend so much of the proposal on the western end, which already has tall buildings.

The proposal does what it's supposed to do. A lot of work has gone into it and it keeps the tall buildings on Queens Blvd and the four story ones on Austin St. I don't like the banning of automotive uses, as downtowns in nice areas have gas stations too. If GM goes out of business, does that mean that HB Cheverolet cannot be bought by another auto retailer? You don't want that huge lot vacant for too long I assure you.

Down on the East end, one patch of stores would actually be upzoned, as the Natural Market structure and its surrounding tenants (King Wok, Q-Thai, C-town, etc) are zoned C1-2. It's a restrictive commercial zone in which lowrise stores have to meet the "local retail needs of the surrounding residential neighborhood". The new zone would allow housing or commercial (maximum of 40 feet).

I'm not a city planner and these are only the impressions of someone trying to put a quick post up on their lunch break. If you have better knowledge of the rezone, please feel free to comment. But at first glance, it's a nice, well thought-out, plan that guarantees no really tall buildings on Austin Street. One only has to look at the Park Lane Towers in Kew Gardens to know how quickly one of these can go up where you least expect them.