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Planning Forum wonders if mayor is coming to So. Side

 


News of proposed newcomers to the South Side -- a youth hostel and a computer/electronics recycling business -- were the focus of the February 12 meeting of the South Side Planning Forum meeting.

Discussion about the invitation to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl to speak on public safety in the South Side concluded the meeting.

In her presentation, Anne Marie Toccket, who is leading the youth hostel project, said the facility is in the planning and fundraising stages. Its projected opening is spring, 2014.

To be located at 1321-1327 East Carson St. above the Beehive Coffeehouse, the 60-70 bed full-service hostel is seeking 501(c)(3) nonprofit status.

The daily rates will likely range from $30 for dorm beds to $80 for private rooms. Security will be provided.

Parking may be shared with City Theatre on its lot. Bike parking will be available.

As the building is historic, no drastic changes will be undertaken to alter its general appearance.

While the South Side hostel will be a place to sleep, it will appeal to a diversity of travelers, Ms. Toccket said, such as bicycle tourists, backpackers, international visitors, conference attendees, and vacationing families.

The projected demographics are visitors 18-35 years of age who want to embed themselves in the local culture for a few days.

The hostel’s annual economic impact on the county is estimated conservatively at $1.5 million. A business plan is currently in production.

Ms. Toccket said she was there to ask if the planning forum would declare their support for the project.

Members agreed to discuss the matter with their respective organizations, and report back at the forum’s March 12 meeting.

In his presentation, Jacob Metz, president of Evolution E-Cycling, said he hopes to relocate his two-year-old recycling company from Robinson Township to a 10,400-square-feet, two-story facility at 2235 Mary St.

He is awaiting approval from the state Dept. of Environmental Protection for the move.

In the meantime, he has sent 171 certified letters to nearby South Side neighbors, and met with city Councilman Bruce Kraus about the relocation.

Evolution E-Cycling serves as a collection point for end-of-life computers and electronics equipment, Mr. Metz said.

There will be no shredding or smelting or anything that creates fumes or odds at the site, he said. No equipment will be stored outdoors.

The business is particularly relevant in light of a new state law that bars the collection of electronic devices in traditional curbside pick-up. Instead, residents must take the items to a recycling processing center, like Evolution E-Cycling.

It will be the only such business within city limits.

A special exception for its establishment in an Urban Industrial (UI) zoning district is being sought from the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA). A January 31 hearing was continued until Februar 14.

There are 10 parking spaces at the site for 2.5 employees. The hours would be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Mr. Metz said he expects to start with a 53” truck until growth occurs. It will not block the street, he said, as the loading dock will be internal.

There will be a site in the parking lot for residents to drop off items. They may ring the doorbell if they want to come inside.

“I think this is a really good start,” Mr. Kraus said, noting there are about 135,000 students in the city -- which equates to a lot of computers.

In other business, Peter Kreuthmeier gave the report of the new Development Review Committee (DRC), formed as a merger of the LTV Steering Committee and the South Side LDC’s Design Review Committee.

He reported: after three failed occupancies, the former Hot Metal Grille site is likely to revert to office usage;

McCormick & Schmick’s is under new ownership, but no changes are planned. Sidewalk seating is being discussed;

Schoolhouse Yoga has relocated out of the area, and being replaced by Simply Yogurt; and,

At 1810 Wharton St ., which is URA vacant property, the URA has tentatively accepted a proposed two townhouse development.

Regarding American Natural’s taking over the Station Square Exxon site, Mr. Kreuthmeier said the committee supports natural gas station for vehicles and having LED price numbers on the new pylon sign, which requires a variance.

But the committee opposes the signage proposal. The proposed design calls for “american natural” on all four sides of the existing canopy, which the committee feels is too much signage.

The proposed false truss on the canopy roof was also disliked.

At the former Rennekamp site, the neighboring church is appealing the ZBA approval for a service station and store.

Regarding the recently adopted eighth revision of the neighborhood plan, forum Chair Hugh Brannan said Tracy Myers promised to complete the final document for the March 12 forum meeting.

The evening’s final discussion was about the forum’s formal request of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl in December to participate in a town meeting on public safety in the South Side in light of the recent upsurge in area crime.

Mr. Brannan said he then received email from Candice Gonzalez of the Mayor’s Office saying she would represent the mayor at future forum meetings instead of Chuck Half, who was reassigned.

He spoke with Ms. Gonzalez a week ago about the mayor’s participation in the town meeting.

At that time, she said she would attend the evening’s forum meeting. But earlier in the day, he received the message she no longer represents the mayor at forum meetings.

Mr. Brannan said he was not sure if the forum any longer has a contact in the Mayor’s Office.

“It has not been for lack of trying,” he said.

Mr. Kraus said he represents District 3 and, as such, his commitment to having the mayor appear for a meeting has not wavered.

He said the last four weekends of the public safety blitz in the South Side have resulted in a “staggering” number of citations, which speak to the “chaos and disorder.”

While he likes the police presence and the mayor’s support of the Responsible Hospitality Institute (RHI), Mr. Kraus said it is the duty of elected officials to speak one-on-one with the neighborhood.

“We need the engagement of our elected leaders,” he said.

Forum members agreed to keep pushing for a town meeting. A candidates’ forum will also be explored.

The next forum meeting will be on March 12.

 

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