Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Large modern building proposed for Ketchum

P&Z hears pre-application design review

Express Staff Writer

Graphic courtesy The Justin Co. A Seattle development firm has proposed to build this four-story, 60,000-square-foot mixed commercial and residential building on First Avenue in downtown Ketchum.

The Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission expressed general approval Monday of a modern-looking, 60,000-square-foot retail and residential building proposed for downtown Ketchum, just west of the Copper Ridge Building.

The Justen Co., a Seattle real estate development firm, has proposed to build the four-story building at 260 First Ave. N. Called Gallery 260. It would house at least one art gallery on its ground floor and contain 23 market-rate condominiums and seven deed-restricted residential units.

The proposed design has a flat roof, cedar siding, long vertical expanses of glass, and balconies with horizontal steel members. The building would gain a story beyond that normally allowed by purchasing transferred development rights.

Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission members expressed general approval of the project during a pre-application, design-review presentation at Ketchum City Hall.

"Overall, I like it," Commissioner Greg Strong said. "I'm a little concerned that it might be a bit on the contemporary side for what people expect here."

"Certain aspects of the building are absolutely gorgeous," P&Z Chair Jack Rutherford said. "It's a little boxy, but I like the whole modern thing. (The Comprehensive Plan) did say 'an eclectic, small Western town'—this is a part of the eclecticism."


Despite commenting that the design looked like a professional office building in Los Angeles, Commissioner Deborah Burns also expressed general approval.

Architect Peter Greaves, from the Seattle firm of Weber and Thompson, told the commissioners the intent of the design was to break the building into three sections while maintaining aesthetic coherence. He said concrete walls on the first floor separate the retail section of the building from the upper residential part.

Ketchum's zoning ordinance states that one purpose of its Community Core is to "encourage buildings that respect Ketchum's historical and geographic context while providing diversity." Greaves said the proposed building's cedar siding is "an abstract reference to the Western storefront."

Following Ketchum code, 20 percent of the building's residential section will contain deed-restricted units. Rutherford objected that all those units face the alley between the building and the Copper Ridge building. He said the intent of the ordinance is to spread those units throughout the buildings. Roberts responded that the project would not be profitable without making its market units as desirable as possible to buyers by providing them with good views.

"I thought we had come to an understanding on that one," he said.

Hailey resident Scott Wesley, a board member of the Rotarun Ski Club, urged the board to approve the proposal as soon as possible since The Justen Company has agreed to donate the Sun Valley Heliski building now on the property for a new base lodge at the ski area west of Hailey. Roberts said in an interview that since the building has tenants, the company will leave it standing until it is ready to build a new one.

The P&Z on Monday also heard a request by The Justen Company and a second developer to reduce the required setback of fourth floors from 25 feet to 15 feet. Commissioners postponed a decision on the matter to a meeting on May 21.

Roberts told them the 25-foot setback requires a considerably beefier deck and does little to hide the upper floor from view.

"It has structural impacts that ripple through the building," he said.

Local architect Dale Bates, who has emphasized passive solar heating in his designs, testified that the proposed change would have little impact on the shadows cast on adjacent buildings.

Strong pointed out that the city's intent is to encourage transfer of development rights by creating the incentive of a fourth floor.

"If we restrict it to the point that it's not financially doable, then we haven't accomplished anything," Strong said.

Rutherford said that if the reduced setback is approved, the city may want to add design guidelines that make roofs more aesthetic.

"We have to be very design sensitive with these fourth floors so we don't walk down the street and say, 'How did this get built?'" he said.

Apparently fearing for its views, KGF Development, the owner of the Copper Ridge building, has filed a lawsuit over the use of transfer of development rights. The suit contends that the city's TDR ordinance violates city and state laws.

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