Project might force Ericksen/Hildebrand link

"The first large-scale apartment project on the island in at least 15 years gets a hearing before the Planning Commission Thursday. But while the Village Square development has picked up support, neighbors are concerned about one condition for approval - the controversial linking of Ericksen Avenue and Hildebrand Lane.It will cost millions to fix Ericksen, said Jeff Moore, a resident of Winslow Co-housing and neighborhood activist, who said the city shouldn't consider the project before resolving road and traffic questions. And the north end (the Hildebrand-High School Road intersection) doesn't work.The mixed-use Village Square development would stretch from Hildebrand Lane westward almost to Madison Avenue, on land south of the Island Village shopping center. The project phase up for review by the planning commission would see six new buildings totaling nearly 90,000 square feet of commercial and residential space. The project would include 90 apartment units and 248 parking spaces.Two Village Square buildings have already been completed, and now house the liquor store and a real estate office.In their review of the proposal for emergency access considerations, Bainbridge Fire Department officials said they would recommend approval only if Ericksen and Hildebrand are connected.But Dave Nelson, construction manager for the city public works department, said this week that linking the two streets will happen regardless of what happens to the Village Square project.We've always recognized that there needs to be another north-south corridor in Winslow other than the state highway and Madison Avenue, Nelson said. The city wants to do a project on Ericksen from Winslow Way to High School Road.As part of the permitting process, the city is telling developers along that corridor that when the Ericksen project is done, we want them to participate (in the cost).Nelson said that the preliminary plans call for curbs and sidewalks on both sides of Ericksen, as well as bike lanes and traffic calming measures.We want it to be safe for pedestrians and bicyclists, Nelson said, adding that traffic calming measures will likely include all-way stops at several intersections, such as those of Madison Avenue with and Wyatt Way and Wallace Way.Nelson said the Ericksen design is in preliminary stages, and wouldn't be finalized for another year or two. He did not offer preliminary estimates of cost, nor did he know how much right-of-way, if any, would have to be acquired.The Village Square project itself would include the island's first large-scale multi-family use in more than a decade. According to developer Jim Laughlin's plan, the initial would be 60 one- and two-bedroom apartments on the west end of the project, near Madison.Laughlin said this week that he believes the apartments will rent in the $600 to $1,000 per month range. We're not targeting the luxury market, Laughlin said. We're trying to build places that people can afford to live in.Originally, opposition also focused on the plan to access the project from Ihland Way on the west. Ihland winds into the Blue Heron condominiums, and residents there were initially up in arms about the increased traffic.But after three meetings with the neighbors, Laughlin proposed blocking access to the neighborhood from Ihland.That was their idea, Laughlin said. I wouldn't have gone to them and say I want to close your street.The separation will involve a raised curb, sidewalk and grassy area like in front of BPA for the farmer's market, Laughlin said. Emergency vehicles would be able to cross the separators.After the neighborhood meetings, Laughlin also shifted more of the residential area to the west, and more of the commercial area to the east.The developer got high marks from at least one of the neighbors for his responsiveness.He went to a lot of effort, said Sharon Wyble, a Blue Heron resident who initially opposed the project. He made more open space, and made sort of a fire break to keep the Ihland traffic out of the neighborhood.Laughlin's modifications eased, but did not completely eliminate, Wyble's concerns.Maybe we shouldn't be permitting development until the traffic issues are addressed, she said. But we realized that these are city planning issues that the developer couldn't do anything to address.The Planning Commission will consider the Village Square application at a 7 p.m. hearing Thursday in the City Council chambers. "

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