Design Review Board

Level 3: Construction of new building/structure


Staff Recommendation

The Board should discuss the overall scale of the proposed building (specifically, the south massing fronting the river) in relation to the context. The Board should also discuss the pedestrian-level design within the neighborhood context. Pending Board decision or any additional conditions related to scale and ground-level design, approval should be subject to the following conditions:

1) Applicants to provide further information regarding pedestrian safety measures on the Hill Avenue parking garage entrance;
2) Addition of a pedestrian entryway facing W. Hill Avenue to meet the base zoning code and design guidelines;
3) Final site plan and parking garage to meet City Engineering standards;
4) Final landscaping plan to meet standards of City zoning code and design guidelines;
5) Any mechanical equipment or service utilities not shown on plans to be placed on secondary elevations and receive screening as necessary;
6) Signage to return to DRB as a separate application.

Applicant Request

SUMMARY: Proposed new 17-story residential construction (twelve stories of residential apartments above 5-stories of structured parking on the rear massing). The building is proposed for an L-shaped site at the intersections of W. Hill Ave., Locust Street, and Front Ave., located immediately north of Neyland Drive and the river. The site is significantly sloped towards the south and the river. The building is L-shaped, with a 6-story massing fronting W. Hill. Ave and extending south along Locust Street, and the larger 17-story massing facing Front Ave.

SITE LAYOUT AND ACCESS: The primary access point to the garage extends from W. Hill Ave via a two-way drive accessing the parking garage, along with ride-share spots, and short term spaces. A secondary/service access point is located to the west/southwest side of the garage, which will extend north off Front Ave and turn right into a loading area. The primary pedestrian access fronts Hill Avenue at the northeast corner of the building.

North massing: the 6-story massing fronting Hill Avenue is clad in brick veneer, featuring vertical metal accents. As the building extends south along Locust Street, a central section (increasing in number of stories at grade, due to the slope) is clad in vertical-ribbed, prefinished metal panels. A flat-roof metal canopy extends around the first story at the corner of Hill Ave and Locust Street. On this section, the windows are evenly spaced and symmetrically arranged single-light storefront systems.

South massing: the 17-story massing towards the river features a cast-in-place concrete parking garage with "architecturally canted columns" at the corners. The residential section above the garage is C-shaped, surrounding an amenity level with a pool immediately above the garage ("podium level 2"), fronting the river. The residential section is clad in fiber cement and features single-light storefront windows, aluminum and glass balconies on all elevations.

Floor plans show the mechanical, electrical, service, and trash functions located at the southwest corner, surrounding the garage access point.

Site Info

1. SITE: the building is proposed for a series of adjacent vacant parcels, which have historically been cleared and used as occasional surface parking. Part of the building (the Hill Avenue massing) is zoned DK-G (Grid district), while the south massing is zoned DK-B (Boulevard subdistrict). The block on W. Hill Avenue contains an eclectic mix of significant historic houses, historic multi-family structures, and a contemporary multi-family building. The site is on the edge of downtown, fronting Neyland Drive and the riverfront, with the Maplehurst neighborhood to the west and the City-County Building to the east. The architectural context is varied in time period, detail, and scale. The new building will be significantly larger in scale and massing than the surrounding buildings.

2. PARKING: the application includes a 5-6-story structured parking garage, with access off Front Street and W. Hill Avenue. The primary garage access point is located on W. Hill Avenue, and will feature two separated lanes for vehicle ingress and egress. The current parking count shows 399 spaces, which will generate a significant amount of vehicle traffic for W. Hill Avenue. Guidelines recommend "consolidating curb-cuts and locating driveways near mid-block, when necessary," and prioritizing pedestrian safety. The access point does meet the guidelines (consolidating the driveways into one curb cut) but the applicants should provide additional information on mitigation of any potential sight distance issues for cars exiting the garage, and pedestrian safety measures on the sidewalk on Hill Avenue.

3. MASSING AND SCALE: guidelines generally encourage maintaining a pedestrian-scaled environment from block to block. The guidelines recommend dividing buildings into "modules" similar in scale to traditional downtown buildings with a recognizable base, middle, and top. The north massing fronting Hill Ave is similar in scale to adjacent buildings and other historic buildings downtown, using a largely transparent ground level separated from the residential upper levels. The south section is not pedestrian-scaled, divided into two large massings of a parking garage and a residential building. The Board should discuss the overall scale of the building's south massing in relation to the context of the area.

4. PEDESTRIAN EXPERIENCE: guidelines encourage incorporating first-floor uses that are open to pedestrians and draw walk-in traffic. The project includes one café space on the first story of the Hill Avenue massing. Guidelines also recommend using building materials and entries at a human scale to create an engaging pedestrian experience, avoiding blank walls along street-facing elevations, and using a "consistent rhythm of entrances and windows."

The secondary elevations avoid blank walls via a series of windows moving south towards the openings to the garage. There are no additional entries to the building beyond two egress doors on the Locust Street side. Overall, most pedestrian activity in the broader area is directed towards the greenway along the riverfront or further north towards downtown; the southern end of Locust Street (along the building's east side) does not have a sidewalk on either side. The Board should discuss the proposed ground-level design within the neighborhood context.

On Hill Avenue, the elevation addresses the street via a series of full-light storefront windows, but the primary pedestrian entries are recessed underneath the building and do not address the street. The zoning code (Article 5.5, Table 5-4) require building facades abutting public rights-of-way to incorporate building entries no less than once every 50 feet. The project should incorporate an entry facing Hill Avenue to better engage the street and meet the base zoning code's design standards for the DK-G subdistrict.

5. MATERIALS: guidelines recommend the use of building materials that "relate to the scale, durability, color, and texture of the predominate building materials in the area." The surrounding area is characterized by a wide array of exterior materials, including contemporary and historic brick masonry, stucco, and wood siding, along with contemporary office buildings and parking structures. Overall, the proposed materials are compatible with the context. The parking garage uses a creative design of canted columns which visually aligns with the nearby Henley Street bridge.

6. MECHANICAL: the floor plans indicate mechanical and service utilities to be located on secondary elevations. Any rooftop mechanical fixtures not depicted on plans or elevations should be set back from the roof edge and receive screening to meet the City zoning code.

7. SIGNS: the signs depicted on the elevation drawings do not contain sufficient information for Board review at this time; a separate signage application should be submitted to the DRB for further review.


Ben Hudgins Brock Hudgins Architects

Planning Staff
Lindsay Crockett
Phone: 865-215-3795
0 W. Hill Ave.

Hill & Locust Partners, GP