The redevelopment of the Triumph Building site on the southwest corner of Ridge Road and Martin Avenue received an enthusiastic green light from the village.
But support for the current project design is not universal.
The Homewood Board of Trustees unanimously approved three measures on Nov. 25 that allowed the redevelopment of the Triumph Building site to move forward, but the project's plan did not receive unanimous approval at a previous stage. When HCF Homewood LLC officials presented the plan to the Appearance Commission on Sept. 5, Homewood historian and Appearance Commission Chairman Jim Wright voted against the design of the mixed-use building. Commission member Brian Quirke abstained.
Wright conveyed his concerns by email to village staff prior to the trustees' vote, and his comments were included in the trustees' board packet. He noted that the location in the heart of the downtown area will mean the structure will have a big impact on the village for decades.
Wright listed several objections, but at the top of the list was the proposed size of the building. At four stories, the new building will be about twice as tall as the existing Triumph Building. The plan calls for the first floor to house a quality restaurant plus a small parking garage. The second floor will be hotel rooms managed by La Banque Hotel. The third and fourth floors will be apartments.
"It will serve as a looming presence over the narrow streetscape and may literally block sunlight for most of the day," he said. "This two-block section of Ridge Road is truly the 'historic' part of downtown Homewood and it is what most residents and visitors alike feel provides the village with its charm and quaintness.
"Although I am not opposed to multi-story developments on the periphery of the downtown … I think the scale of the proposed building here will essentially ruin the charm of the heart of the downtown."
At the village board meeting, project architect Jon Murawski, representing Robert, Juris & Associates, said effort was made to make the modern building fit with the architectural traditions of the area. He said the design had incorporated elements still found on older buildings downtown and some from buildings that were long part of the village but have been demolished.
Wright, who has studied Homewood's history extensively, noted that many of the surrounding structures were built during the last half of the 19th and early part of the 20th centuries. He was not convinced by the architect's effort, noting that choice of material types and colors and HVAC vent placing on the facade seemed unwise to him. He also questioned the use of roll-up doors on the ground level, which he said resemble garage doors.
"I am concerned that the style and choice of materials, although they may be trendy now, they may soon lose their appeal, and we may be left with a dated building far earlier than we expect," he said.
The roll-up doors will enable the restaurant to be more open to the sidewalks and an outdoor seating area.
Tim Flanagan, a partner in the development firm, responded to Wright's concerns after the board meeting.
"We listened to his concerns, and we respect his position and his concerns," he said.
He noted the complexity of development projects and said the ambience of the community was a matter the firm took seriously.
"The newer building products, newer facade with the roll-up doors are new ideas that seem to be popular," he said. "We've tried to blend historic architecture with newer building products."
Regarding the height of the building, Flanagan said the financial viability of the project had to take precedence. He said a five-story structure was considered at one point, but four stories was assessed as economically sound and met with the approval of village officials.
He said residential density is key to making the project work.
"We only have 24 apartments. You're trying to get your restaurant to survive," he said. "A lot of people want a good quality restaurant. To do that, we have to deliver that space at an affordable rent."
For his part, Wright indicated he understands the redevelopment project is good for the village in that it will replace a building that is currently in poor condition and cannot support business occupancy. He said he hopes the village will continue to work with the developer, however, to improve the design.
"I understand the developer’s desire to complete the building with some economies and the village's desire to get the project done, but I feel it important that I express my opinions," he said. "I hope we will be able to work further with the developer on this."
Flanagan said as soon as spring weather arrives, his firm plans to begin demolition of the Triumph Building and to get construction started soon after.
- Homewood trustees greenlight downtown redevelopment project (Nov. 26, 2019)
- Triumph Building in downtown Homewood sold to developer (May 17, 2019)
- Homewood to purchase building once part of proposed development (May 26, 2018)
- Downtown Homewood redevelopment deal stalls (June 27, 2017)
- Homewood takes steps to pave way for downtown redevelopment (Nov. 14, 2016)
- Homewood approves feasibility study aimed at downtown redevelopment (Feb. 7, 2016)