Canby City Administrator Rick Robinson led a town hall meeting on March 30, along with developer Mary Hanlon, to discuss details of the upcoming downtown construction project — a four-story, mixed use development with retail on the ground floor and three floors of studio and one-bedroom apartments above — and answered questions from the public.
Robinson said the city knows there are a lot of people in the community who still have many questions about the so-called city block development, officially named The Dalia Mixed-Use Building by Hanlon, and that although this is the fifth time The Dalia has been discussed at length in a public meeting, and although he thought the urban renewal agency and city council did a good job communicating the project's plans, he realized the city needed to provide more in-depth information to citizens.
Robinson said the most frequently-asked questions center on parking, how construction will affect downtown businesses and traffic, the height of the building, what's going to happen to the old city hall building, how will The Dalia help downtown businesses, and information for people who already are interested in living there.
Parking first. The public has been debating online for months whether or not there is enough parking downtown to accommodate a 69-unit mixed-use development. Robinson said there are a total of 140 parking spaces that will be available both on site and adjacent to the property once construction is completed.
"The project has 43 current total on-site parking spaces and we'll be creating by the closure of some of the access points to the on-site parking will create an additional five spaces," he said. "The on-street parking that's just immediately adjacent to this block totals 92 spaces. And that's just on First Avenue, Ivy, Holly and Second Avenue around that one city block. We know that anytime you add a new business to the community there is a new demand for parking. It wouldn't matter if this was the development or another project — there is a demand for parking."
Robinson said while there is no off street parking requirement in the city's downtown overlay district, a development could have come into the city of Canby, built on that city block and would not, pursuant to the city code, been required to have any off-street parking.
"So, those 43 spaces are in addition to what is required under the existing city code," he said.
Another question Robinson said he hears frequently is: What is the city doing that is not in conformance with Canby's building code and what elements of the project require a variance, or a deviation from the established rules?
The answer to that question, Robinson said, is there are no elements of this project that would require a variance.
"One of the things we made clear to prospective developers was that we wanted a project that met all of the city's zoning requirements, and this project does that," he said. "It doesn't ask for any special variance or a departure from what would be required of any other business."
The second piece, Robinson said, is how at least 69 new residents and new retail spaces will affect other businesses downtown? The expectation is that it will have a very positive impact on all downtown businesses, and that one of the goals in the 2013 Canby visioning process was to create an attractive and walkable downtown community, specifically to create a project like this that would bring new housing to downtown Canby.
"The nature of most of us, myself certainly, like most people, is that we want to be able to be as close as we can to the services we want so we can walk to them when we need them," Robinson said. "That's one of the design concepts associated with this development."
The Dalia will be the tallest building in Canby once it is completed, and many citizens wonder how will it impact other buildings in town, and if it will really look out of place and out of character. Any developer could come into downtown Canby and construct a building as tall as 60 feet, or about six floors, and a maximum of 30,000 square feet based on current city downtown building standards, city records show.
The Dalia will be 46.6 feet tall. As a frame of reference, the new Canby Public Library-Civic Center is about 35-feet tall at its highest point — specifically, the air ducts on the building's roof. So, The Dalia will be about 11-12 feet taller the new Canby Public Library.
Additionally, the new civic center uses a lot of brick on the exterior of the building in keeping with the character of a number of businesses and buildings in Canby's downtown core, Robinson said.
"As you look at the renderings we have of The Dalia, you'll see the same thing," he said. "The first half of this building on NW Second Avenue is all brick. One of the interesting things about the design of The Dalia is a change of color on the top floor, which will actually make the building appear to be a little bit smaller than it is."
Also to consider, the footprint of The Dalia will be about 10,500 square feet, and 205-feet long compared to the Canby Public Library, which is about 25,000 square feet and 225-feet long.
Hanlon said she is really excited about bringing this project to Canby because the city has all the elements that would support such a downtown development.
"We worked side-by-side with city staff the whole way to make sure the vision for the project was consistent with what the community would want," Hanlon said. "It's a really high-quality building with beautiful features that are integrated with this building and other existing downtown qualities. It should generate a lot of more activity in this area that will support current and future businesses. There is a lot of new commercial space there — 8,000 square feet — and we're talking with local businesses about some exciting ideas and basically creating a walkable community for anybody who wants to live in that sort-of alternative to having a single-family home."
Hanlon said she envisions living there younger people who are still single, young couples and people who are downsizing. The Dalia will be an elevator building with granite counter tops, a fitness area, a coffee room and other amenities, she said.
Mark Davis, owner of Movu Esthetics, located on NW Third Avenue downtown, asked the question that was on everyone's mind.
"I'm very excited for this project," Davis said. "I love all the thought you've put into it, I think it looks beautiful and I think it'll be wonderful for our community. My question is when does it start and when will it end?"
Hanlon said she will try to make it as painless a process as possible for downtown businesses, and that plans are to break ground at the end of April. "It'll take about a year (to complete)," she said.
Also asked was why the decision was made to spell The Dalia differently than the actual spelling of the flower — keep in mind, Canby is surrounded by Dahlia farms and is the largest area in the U.S. that produces the flowers.
"You're not alone," Hanlon said. "One of the architects on the project sent me an email saying, 'Uh, Mary, I don't know how to tell you this but you spelled Dahlia wrong.' I love Dahlias and think they are the most beautiful flowers. I also looked into the history of Dahlias and they are apparently a Mexican flower. I'm terrible with second languages but even I know there isn't an 'H' in the middle of a Spanish word. We were kind of going back to the roots of that and the agricultural community. If you're really offended by that there is still time to change the name."
The question also arose about the loud, infamous train whistles in Canby that drive many downtown business owners nuts — just ask Oliver Insurance owner Ryan Oliver. When a train comes through downtown blowing its horn, it drowns out everything, so all conversation comes to a complete standstill for a few moments, however, it can occur at least two dozen times a day.
The city has been working with ODOT for years to try to establish a quiet zone through Canby so conductors don't have to lay on the horn once they begin approaching the edge of town, and it is still going through the process, Robinson said.
"We don't have resolution yet," Robinson said. "Well, we have a resolution, we just don't have the money for it. We're still working with ODOT. We essentially have the intersections other than Elm and (Highway) 99E resolved. Right now, the current design, it would be the north intersection coming off 99 on Elm Street in both directions that is not adequate to handle truck traffic. We have more work to do with ODOT (to redesign that intersection). We expect this to proceed with or without the quiet zone but we are going to continue trying to find a cost-sharing solution that involves both the city and the state."
Canby Area Chamber of Commerce Director Mallory Gwynn said he thought this was an amazing opportunity for Canby, not only as an investment in downtown but to have controlled growth.
"I think that's important and maintaining the character of our community is important as well," Gwynn said. "If you go to the Hanlon website you will see just what her involvement is in communities like ours. It's not just a profit thing for them. One of the cool things about this project is we know the building owner. There are a lot of buildings downtown where the owner lives somewhere else and you never see them — it's just about money. From a sheer business perspective we have a tremendous opportunity. If we can get some more businesses downtown that really know how to touch people's hearts when they go in, like Canby Rental or Cutsforth's or The Backstop, (it will) infuse hospitality into our downtown so that we can attract more businesses and people who want to come here and visit us."