By Mwiza Kalisa
The Wallingford Community Council held a meeting last Wedneday to discuss changes of the zoning code that would accommodate an office building on Stone Way, between 34th and 35th streets. Community members gathered at the Good Sheperd Center to voice their concerns and to hear from Skanska, the developer.
The community council reached a decision to appeal the code change that potentially increases the height limit of the building from 45 feet to 65 feet. The residents who attended the meeting had different views about the plans to amend the zoning code.
“The problem is this is only a pilot project and the requirements are so loose that tomorrow is the deadline for appealing a preliminary environmental review by the city. Basically it would allow an extra 20 feet on top of the current zoning without any guarantee that you get a Living Building,” said Lee Raeen, President of the Wallingford Community Council.
Lisa Picard, Executive Vice President at Skanska, discussed the benefits of the tall office building. “This site is critical to connect the community and have a vibrant base and a vibrant floor, we’re going to do everything to ensure its success,” Picard said at the meeting. She also mentioned that there are concerns about parking, but that the project has 250 parking stalls planned. “The employees are provided parking but they are given incentives to essentially commute in a different way,” she added.
The building would accommodate 300 employees, some residents see this as an opportunity to create more jobs. Those in favor of increasing the height limit mentioned that it’s a wonderful opportunity for businesses and that the neighborhood would be more vibrant. The tenant was not revealed at last nights meeting, the only information Skanska provided is that they are a “sports and lifestyle fitness company.”
Katherine Bragdon has lived in the Wallingford area since 1995. Although she supports the idea of a green building she’s concerned about its impacts. “The Living Building program is exciting, I love the idea and our neighbors love the idea, but not at the cost of our neighborhood. Either keep it at 45 ft and keep it green, or have it moved to a neighborhood that is more appropriate for a building of that height, that build and that scale,” she said.
“It’s just too big, I feel like a 65 to 80 ft structure close to the water doesn’t make sense. It contradicts the comprehensive plan that the city created and I feel like it also undermines the process that they had for years to keep the transfer station at its existing height. A potential 65 to 80 ft building dwarves almost everything in the area, it doesn’t make sense,” Bragdon added.
A public hearing is scheduled at City Hall on Wednesday October 12 at 9 a.m.