NORTH KINGSTOWN — On Tuesday evening, the Planning Commission met to discuss continued efforts to conceptualize an acceptable layout for the future retail/residential development at Rolling Greens on Route 102. The development’s architect, Donald Powers of Union Architects in Providence, presented five alternative layouts which could offer a workable area that is inviting to both the consumer public and those living within the development.
On numerous occasions during the fall, public hearings were held to discuss the potential impacts of a mixed use development on Route 102 in front of Rolling Greens golf course. On Dec. 18, 2012, the Planning Commission voted to approve the development, finding that it satisfied the town’s Compact Village Development (CDV) requirements and was consistent with North Kingstown’s Comprehensive Plan.
One of the stipulations of the commission’s approval and recommendation to the town council was that five alternative layouts were provided by Powers and the applicants, a group of realty and property stakeholders. Those designs were viewed on Tuesday evening.
“We didn’t think it made sense to have the applicant engineer every one of these designs, but to get a grasp of the preferred design by the Planning Commission and go ahead to engineer that design,” said Director of Planning Jon Reiner. “The applicants and Mr. Powers are looking at the general orientation of buildings and are not as concerned with the overall footage of the buildings.”
Powers first highlighted the impacts and improvements of his latest design, as well as providing the sketches of previous iterations that date back to the development’s original conceptualization in 2010. The current concept has two large retail buildings facing Route 102, identified as a potential pharmacy and bank. As the development retreats farther back towards the Rolling Green Golf Course, Powers has designed a compact space filled with potential buildings for a restaurant, neighborhood businesses, and apartments.
“Over the course of this project, there have been 15 iterations on the way the retail might work,” said Powers. “We looked at [the design] and asked what the reality is for retail, and not all of it will be auto-centric that needs to be visible from Route 102.”
“If I were to critique earlier schemes, we need to create a ping pong effect, where people need to see all the destinations of where they want to go,” he added. “In retrospect, it has been a good progression to get to this, this, although there are specifics that could or would change.”
Commission members made comments that the current concept presented by Powers looks similar to that of South County Commons along Route 1 in South Kingstown, which has an Applebee’s in the front and neighborhood businesses farther behind, as well as apartments to the right of the main entrance.
Both Powers and commission members emphasized that more work will need to be done on the design prior to the preliminary stage for site engineering, and the conversation Tuesday evening included a debate about how to best market potential businesses within the development.
“You have to consider the marketability and the fact of whether somebody wants to be in there and what you can do to convince them to come to this place,” said Commission member Harriett Powell.
“It feels more like a village concept, where you have people drawing from the neighborhood,” said Jeffrey S. Michaelson.
Members also debated about the particular exterior designs of buildings and how they might affect the surrounding neighborhoods, but Reiner cautioned that the project will have a set of design standards laid out by the Planning Commission within which the applicants must work.
“In applications like this, unless they have a tenant, we approve the general site layout, and the applicants have to come back to the Planning Commission to approve the actual building layout,” said Reiner.
Town Council member Kevin Maloney was on hand to express his opinion on the latest design.
“I like what is going on, although I would truly rather see the thing flipped and see the pharmacy in the back,” said Maloney. “It is the same reason you put the milk in the back of the store, so that people get to everything else.”
“What bothers me the most about it is the two buildings of the highest traffic would be right up front and clog up all the traffic flow,” he continued. “I’d rather see all the parking work towards the back.”
The Planning Commission will continue its dialogue with the applicants and Powers, as well as with the town council, until a final design layout is recommended for approval.