I fully endorse The Tribune’s opinion (Editorial, Oct. 9) that the Garden Street Terrace project still needs important design revisions. We all know the project is years in the making, and the developer and the architect (with a little help from the market dump) introduced several changes to make it better. But quality architecture and urban design is not easy to achieve and takes many attempts and a lot of community participation.
Some of the major design issues that surprisingly passed the Architectural Review Committee were well covered by The Tribune’s editorial, namely the choice of colors (black is definitely not an inviting color and does not pertain to San Luis Obispo’s architectural heritage) and the façade’s lack of ornamentation and articulation, particularly at the ground level. However, two other important issues were not emphasized by The Tribune.
Firstly, the project does not address the corner. Marsh and Broad is one of the most important corners in the downtown as it serves as a gateway to the historical core for drivers entering the city from the south.
As it stands, the project proposes a faceless black box there: no special treatment, no diagonal cut, no rounded corner, no special entrance and no difference in height or cornice to accent the importance of that “place.” There are many good examples — historical and contemporary — of good corner design in SLO and throughout California.
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Secondly, the city gave away public space (the old parking lot), and the community is not getting anything in return to enhance the public realm (such as other recent projects did) except for retail and two narrow alleys. The project has no pocket park, no public art, no public benches and not even a restaurant on the rooftop to take advantage of the great views.
Like The Tribune and many other residents, I am not opposed to the project in principle, but I urge the City Council to direct staff to work with the architect and address these important design issues before giving the project the final green light and leaving an indelible mark on this jewel of a downtown.
The writer is a professor of city and regional planning at Cal Poly and resides in San Luis Obispo.