St. Charles plan commissioners generally receptive to downtown building proposal

St. Charles plan commissioners Tuesday night were generally receptive to a concept plan for a four-story mixed-use building in downtown.

St. Charles-based J&B Builders, Inc. has filed a concept plan for a vacant lot at 1st and Prairie streets in the Brownstone planned unit development. The city council's planning and development committee is set to review the plans Monday night.

The Brownstone planned unit development was approved to enable redevelopment of the former Piano Factory Mall site for townhomes. The land use plan adopted as part of the city's 2013 comprehensive plan identifies the property as mixed-use.

During the plan commission meeting, concerns were raised about traffic circulation. Commission Chairman Peter Vargulich said having a parking and traffic study done for the project "would be helpful."

"I think that is something that should be included in your preliminary submittal," he said.

The proposed 50-foot tall, four-story story building would front South 1st Street. The first floor would house commercial space and parking, while up to 20 condominium units would occupy the second to fourth floors.

The condominium units would be owned, not rented.

"With our architectural style, we wanted to provide a variety of what was existing along 1st Street and trying to incorporate a unique building design along with an architectural style that would complement those other businesses and residential uses surrounding us," Brian Buoy, of J&B Builders, told plan commissioners. "We believe this development will appeal to a variety of buyers, from young professionals to those looking forward to the unique live/work opportunity as well as empty nesters looking to downsize."

The builder has agreed with staff recommendations to push the building back three to five feet to allow for more green space and a better streetscape plan along 1st Street. City staff also recommended limiting the allowable uses to reflect the type of live/work accommodation contemplated.

Staff suggested the uses could be limited to business/professional offices, retail or an art gallery. J&B Builders agreed with the recommendation.

"Our plan is for four to five boutiques that would be small - 700 to 900 square foot units along 1st Street that would appeal to the owners in the surrounding community," Buoy said. "The commercial units will only be available for purchase for the buyers of the residential units to again allow for that unique live/work relationship."

Each side of the building contains a penthouse that extends 10 feet above the 50-foot roof line. The city's 2005 planned use development ordinance calls for a maximum height of 49 feet.

"The zoning ordinance allows building elements extending above the main portion of the building to be excluded from the building height calculation, just so the projection comprises less than 20% of the building footprint," city planner Ellen Johnson said in her staff report. "The proposed penthouse projection meets this requirement at 14% of the building footprint."

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