Last Tuesday (3/17/09) the Monroe City Council approved a new Downtown sub area plan and Design Guidelines and Updated Development Regulations. The major change, or at least the one I've been wanting to see is the addition of design guidelines to encourage mixed use development in the downtown area.
Up until now, the design guidelines really only allowed for two concepts: commercial or multifamily. Commercial zoning allowed for complete lot coverage in the downtown area (build lot-line to lot-line) but multifamily zoning, aimed primarily at apartment complexes, required lots of open space, parking, etc.
The new guidelines now provide for an appropriate compromise. In fact, it encourages the addition of residential units to commercial developments by providing bonuses to floor-to-area ratios when including residential. Of course, there is a requirement for providing off-street parking, but no "open space' requirements and no minimum lot sizes (beyond what results from other requirements like parking).
I'm looking forward to the long-term affect on these changes to the Monroe downtown area. I believe that by encouraging mixed-use development there is a greater chance of building a community of urban residents who will help keep the downtown area vibrant and prosperous (ok, "keep" might be incorrect... about "help make" it that way).
So what are some of the provisions of the new guidelines?
Well, lets start with the basics. Historic Main area allows for 100% lot coverage and no setbacks to front, sides, or back (sides and back are dependent on fire-rated walls though).
The maximum height is 35' and the floor to area ratio is 1.7:1.
What is floor to area ration (FAR)? That is the ratio for floor space to the lot size. So, at 1.7:1, a 10000 sf lot can have 17000 sf of floor space (or basically a 1.7 story building at 100% lot coverage). Make the building footprint smaller, the building gets taller.
Where does mixed use fit in? Well, first of all, adding a floor of residential to the commercial building (hey! That's the definition of mixed use folks!) and you get a .5 bonus to the FAR... so in the above example, instead of 17000 sf , you could have a 23000 sf building (2.3:1 is the new ratio)
You also get a 20' bonus to your maximum building height... so it goes from max 35' to max 55'. If your 23000 sf building has a 7000 sf footprint on its 10000 sf lot, it would be over 3 stories tall.
What's the negative? Parking of course. Add residential you need to have parking. For each 2 bedroom unit, you need 2 parking spaces... about 120sf each. And you'll loose some more lot with driving lanes. But, the loss is more than covered by the FAR bonus.
The city is very excited about these new guidelines. I had a great conversation with the Assistant Planner last week about them... we've been talking about such changes for a couple of years. I'm looking forward to seeing mixed use development go in.... with a little luck and good planning, I might even be part of the development.
If you want more information about the guidelines send me an email or give me a call.
Jason Hershey, Commercial Agent
Commercial Sales and Leasing
CENTURY 21 North Homes Realty, Inc.
13322 Hwy 99 South, Suite #201
Everett, WA 98204
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