UPDATE: Sycamore Commons Convenience Store proposed for “Manetoowa” Parcel

"Manetoowa" sitting in front of the proposed site (Image: http://www.waymarking.com)

According to a article in the Kokomo Tribune on 12/20/11, Fortune Management is proposing to build a convenience store on the lot where the Indian Maiden statue is currently located. The development could provide everyday necessities that would normally not be within walking distance for people living east of downtown. The project is also located at an important automobile and bicycling route within downtown Kokomo, which “ups the stakes,” creating certain expectations on a currently empty site.

A store such as this could be extremely positive while adding density downtown. As the article states, this convenience store would be “a typical convenience store,” which means that necessities would be closer to people living on the east side of downtown Kokomo. Having necessities and select grocery items could drastically cut down on automotive traffic, making this area of Kokomo less dependent on the automobile. In my opinion, any development that has the potential to release people of their automobile addiction is a positive addition. Although I do find that a development such as this one could be extremely positive, I do have some concerns to the built impact that it might have in that area.

Originally, when I heard of the development, I thought that there was no way that the development would have adequate parking for such a land use. The property is roughly 100′ x 130′ making the entire lot 13,000 square feet. The proposed convenience store would be just under 2,000 square feet, taking up about 15% of the property. Some of the remaining area needs to be kept for the “Manetoowa” statue which is located near the corner of Apperson Way and east Sycamore Street.

What Sycamore Commonss Convenience Store will probably look like. Shown with 26 parking spots (Image: Ross Pierce 12/20/11)

In the image above, I quickly illustrated on Google Earth what I assumed the site would look like by the typical convenience store design. As you can see, much of the site is taken over by parking. The building looks somewhat insignificant on the site because of it. In the available aerial imagery online, the lot was previously used by a car salesman, so it clearly illustrates that more cars can than needed for such a small building could be placed on the parking lot. The space that Manetoowa already takes up is illustrated in green. She is located near the corner and there is planting around her base and down both streets. My other concerns consist of how the structure relates to the Indian Maiden statue on the corner of the lot, providing bike parking and other urban design features.

This development would hold a lot less importance to me if the statue was not located on the same site. Since there was quite a bit of public investment on the downtown gateways a few years back, in my opinion it is important to do justice to the statue. I still have my reservations as to why I don’t particularly like the statues placement on the site in relation to the nearby traffic light pole. Even though this convenient store mentions nothing about providing a need for street furniture, they could easily create a cooperative relationship with the Indian Maiden statue by creating a small sitting/picnic area. If the design doesn’t create an obvious acknowledgement of the statue, it will degrade both the statue and the convenience store’s value. Together, it could create something that the community could be proud of.

With the city’s dedication to becoming a walkable, bikeable community, providing adequate bike parking is necessary for every development in the city. In urban design, providing adequate bike parking is called end of trip facilities. This development’s site is located at the corner of a city bike route as well as  the downtown terminus of the east Sycamore Street bike lane. In the past, Fortune Management have provided bike parking in some of their developments. At the Forest Park Shopping Center on the city’s west side, there were two bike racks that could hold up to 4 bikes installed within one parking spot. A bike rack with that capacity could easily support the amount of bikes and could easily be placed on site so that bicyclists would feel as comfortable as any other road user. Below is what I would love to see on this particular site. If parking is your main selling point, the design below can hold up to 36 parking spots, while the other, more regular convenience store design above could only fit 26.

Sycamore Commons Convenience Store - What I am hoping for. (NOT AN OFFICIAL PROPOSAL) Shown with 29-36 parking spots. (Image: Ross Pierce 12/20/11)

UPDATE: This site currently sits within the “CBD Perimeter Architectural Control District,” which means that there are additional building design controls in place. The building “shall sit on the front and side property lines,” making the first scenario (typical convenience store design) impossible without the acceptance from the plan commission. This project will be one of the few projects that fall into one of the CBD Architectural Control Districts in the past year or so. There was another recently proposed project located in the same district near the Nickel Plate Railroad Station Architectural Control District but released a fairly well designed site plan.

Until a site plan and design illustration is released on the project, the jury is still out on this one for me. I am cautiously optimistic about this project. Only time will tell if this project can become what I hope to be a beautiful worthwhile downtown development at an important intersection.

Tell me what you think! Do you prefer the first or second illustration? Comment Below.

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