COEUR d'ALENE - Meet the neighbors.
The Colorado developers proposing to build a 12-story retail and apartment complex in downtown Coeur d'Alene laid out the first wave of details behind the estimated $20 million project Thursday, saying they want to work with the surrounding neighborhood as much as possible as they turn the conceptual plan into a final design.
"I don't consider myself a local by any stretch of the imagination," said Greg Hills, principal of real estate development firm Austin Lawrence Partners, out of Aspen, Colo., which is pitching the project. "I'm not saying that I am ... But our goal is to have a collaborative effort with the city on this building."
The company wants to break ground on a 125,000-square-foot, 60-unit luxury-apartment building at 201 N. First St., in the spring.
Before it can, developers must receive approval from the city's Design Review Commission ensuring the project adheres to building guidelines.
Thursday's meeting was the first of at least three meetings with the commission, and around 40 neighbors showed up to praise, object or offer suggestions on the proposal.
"Obliterated," is how highrise neighbor Don Sausser described what would become of his view if the 12-story building went up.
Several neighbors in adjacent highrise condos offered similar concerns about losing their lake views while their property values dropped. Congestion from increased traffic and an over-built condo market with the additional units were brought up, too.
"What we have is people coming in not really understanding" the local issues, said Jim Crowe, Coeur d'Alene North Condo resident. "I'm not worried about Colorado, I'm worried about the people in Coeur d'Alene."
Crowe said the building's homeowners association is against the project, and a letter submitted by attorney Scott Reed urged the city reject the proposal because the proposal would go against regulations established to protect property rights by causing an economic loss for existing neighbors "in excess of a million dollars."
Reed, who wasn't at the meeting, told The Press he would be prepared to take the issue to court if it got that far.
"You don't make a threat without saying I'm prepared to follow through," Reed said.
Not everyone was against the project, including some next door neighbors.
Some said they were well aware the 20,000-square-foot parcel, where the Mudge building now sits, could be developed one day before they moved into the neighborhood. Others said they were happy to have an opportunity to weigh in on the design.
"I think we're very fortunate," said Rick Carr, on the chance for neighbors to offer input on the proposed investment. "The design is phenomenal."
The meeting focused on the general idea of the 153-foot-tall building. It didn't hash out specific construction details. Those will become clearer in the next two meetings. But the developers shared some design ideas, like how they want to incorporate a lot of glass on the side of the buildings, so it's aesthetically pleasing from all sides. It would terrace the design, meaning parts of the building would be set back, skinnier than other parts of the structure, and not a "sea of concrete or brick," architect Michael Noda said.
Design commissioner Heather Bowlby said the commission's job with the developers is "not to run them out of town, but to create and work with them."
That means working together to find the best outcome for all sides, she said, especially since development around Coeur d'Alene - especially on parcels like the Mudge building near the waterfront - is all but inevitable.
"The train has left," she said. "It's left the station."
At the end of the nearly 2 hour meeting, the developers said they would take some of the suggestions, like moving some of the proposed building away from the North condos, and start penciling out more specific plans. They'll bring those drafts back to the commission for further review when they're ready. If the commission approves the design down the line, the applicants, called One Lakeside LLC., would then apply for building permits.
"I appreciate everyone's comments, I really do. We really do want to do something that achieves multiple goals," said Hills, who has been visiting Coeur d'Alene since 2001. The proposed building would be his first commercial enterprise in Idaho. "This city is a special city, we totally understand that."