Update: The George Conversion of Retail Space

Aug 8, 2022 | Ward 4 News

This week, the City Planning Commission held a public hearing on the question of adding 42 units of housing to the first floor of The George. This is a space that had been designated for commercial/retail use and approval was required in order to allow its conversion to more housing units. I wrote about this meeting in my last newsletter, and posted about it here:

After significant discussion, the Planning commission unanimously approved the conversion.

An overwhelming majority of neighborhood residents opposed this conversion — the commission received fifteen emails in opposition and two in support. Among those participating in the hearing live, seven more people opposed the conversion. One of the two emails in support of the conversion was later characterized by a Planning Commissioner as unhelpful “misinformation” insofar as it described The George as a Planned Unit Development (PUD). The George is not a PUD.

In his presentation, the current owner of The George claimed that he had attempted to market the space and had failed to attract any interest at any price point. One commissioner noted that she could find no evidence online that the property was even available for lease as commercial/retail space.

The property owner offered to set aside two units – an estimated 2,264 square feet – for commercial/retail and one commissioner proposed an amendment consistent with that offer. The amendment would have allowed the development of more housing units “Subject to converting the four westernmost dwelling units to retail uses, resulting in a total of 38 dwelling units being approved.” After three Planning commissioners argued that any commercial/retail space was unreasonable and infeasible, that amendment was withdrawn.

I want to thank the neighborhood Ward 4 residents who made the effort to share their perspectives. I regret that the appointed members of the Planning Commission did not find the needs and wants of the neighborhood compelling enough to support.