Construction is still underway for phase one of Marble Alley and even a casual glance reveals it’s rapidly moving toward being ready to accept residents. The most recent estimate for move-in date is mid-December and 174 of the 248 new units should be complete by the end of that month. An on-site leasing office will be in place sometime in November and, hopefully, a model unit or two will be available around the same time.
Completion target for the remainder of the apartments is March, 2016. Following that, the city will improve the streets and sidewalks around the project. I didn’t realize until I looked at the renderings that the sidewalks will be improved on both sides of State Street and that they will include the inlaid bricks like those found on Gay Street. The ground level residences in Phase will have step-ups similar to row homes in other cities.
Of course, last August I wrote in great detail about phase one and the most common question I got about that was: “When is phase two going to start?” Along with that comes a lot of curiosity about what that second phase will include. These are pretty heady times for our downtown when the largest residential project in downtown’s history, and the first project to turn a (massive) parking lot into a building isn’t even complete before people want to know what’s next.
Where phase one included 200,000 square feet of residential space and a parking garage, plans for phase two include 45,000 square feet of retail, 45,000 square feet of office space and 125,000 square feet of residential. It’s important at this point to understand that these are simply plans. Numerous approvals have to be obtained, agreements made, financing obtained and more. The plans could change depending on many variables including a shift in the economy, for example.
Buzz Goss will be the developer of the second phase, as he was of the first, and he’s quick to point out that he’s building a district, not a set of buildings. Just as we’ve talked about Depot Avenue becoming (if all the proposed developments become reality) a hub of the city, Buzz would envision this area being the same. And he’s not just imagining a building on the remaining space in the former city-block of pavement.
He’s also thinking the corner of Union and State (you have to love the intersections in this city – the State of the Union, the intersection of Church and State, Gay/Union) should be a visibly attractive and vibrant node to pull pedestrians down from Gay Street. In order to accomplish that he needs more than just one corner engaged with pedestrians. He’d like to see a small park or plaza on the northwest corner of the intersection. He imagines the site being dedicated to Cal Johnson (whose building is falling down within sight of this spot. And he’d like it to visually reference some of the elements from Cal Johnson Park to which Mr. Johnson donated a fountain and the arched entrance you see in the photograph.
The park would include not only a fountain, but vertical gardens or trees to obscure the Promenade Garage. The park would be visible from Gay Street just up the hill and would allow the sight-line to continue to the second phase building of the project which, hopefully, will mean retail within sight of Gay Street.
The southeast corner of the intersection already has the State Street Garage. He’d like to see a small, shallow retail space constructed on the west side of the garage at that intersection. This would make three of the four corners active and would complete the picture looking down the hill from Gay Street.
The final part of the vision for this phase involves parking. Whereas a new garage was built for phase one – and I would add artfully built as it sits in the internal portion of the block and will not be visible from the street – this phase does not call for a new parking garage. So where will the new residents of the approximately 147 units park?
Mr. Goss would like to build two additional levels of parking atop the State Street Garage. When it was expanded a couple of years ago, the infrastructure was laid for additional floors. Mr. Goss would like to build a pedestrian sky-way spanning Union and connected the new building with the parking garage. It would be a similar construction to the one built crossing State from the garage to Gay Street.
If all the approvals, financing and other hurdles are cleared, he’d like to begin construction late in 2016. Whereas phase one of the project will take about eighteen months to complete, he feels the second phase could be completed in about twelve months. If the residential component becomes reality, Mr. Goss says that Marble Alley would have more dense residential development than the 100 block, shifting the center of downtown’s population. That’s quite an impact.
Of course, one of the big hurdles is financing to make the retail portion of this project happen. It’s critical and he’s hopeful. He’d like to see services as well as traditional retail. As you can see in the rendering, restaurants and traditional retail are also included. And then there is Phase III. But that’s a long way down the line and a topic for sometime next year.