Neighborhood not happy with commercial expansion plan at 8th and Hwy 24
Alternatives to 7th Street access requested

       A proposed shopping center expansion at the northeast corner of Eighth Street and Highway 24 has a ways to go before nearby residents like the idea.
       This was evident at a neighborhood meeting Dec. 11 on the plan for Shoppes at Bear Creek Plaza. Proposed by Southwestern Properties, doing businesses as Shoppes at Bear Creek Plaza LLC, the expansion would include a second commercial building and access from Seventh Street.
       The main opposition was to the Seventh Street access, which would attract at least 200 more cars a day through an older residential neighborhood, according to the LLC traffic study. There were also critical comments about the study itself (which was inadvertently conducted when Chestnut Street was closed off), the building design, and the possibility of its convenience store becoming a hangout for transients who already frequent the area.
       Byron Glenn, representing the LLC, defended the project, saying that the Seventh Street access should not have a major impact and that completing the center project - Phase 1 of which was a refurbishing of the existing building (originally a Western Sizzlin' restaurant) - will “clean up” the property.
       John Nelson, the project architect, showed a plan with a stone veneer and heavy timbers that he said reflected an intent to “do something handsome” at the site. But he also suggested that “we as a team can come back to you with something more digestible.”
       After considerable back and forth, two ideas came forward for Seventh Street, which currently ends about 10 feet above the shopping center parking lot. One would extend Vermijo Street, which currently dead-ends in an industrial block a few hundred feet away, to the center. Heather Rose of City Planning said city staff would look at this option. Another proposal, from LLC traffic consultant Jeff Hodsdon, would reduce the neighborhood traffic by making the Seventh Street access one way - people could use it to enter the center but would have to exit at the current right-in/right-out access off Eighth Street.
       A meeting of the neighbors was planned this month to address the project further, and Rose said another meeting with the developer and City Planning will be scheduled in the near future. The Shoppes development plan does not require Planning Commission and/or City Council approval; Planning staff can approve or disapprove it administratively.
       Plans call for the center's new commercial building to be 10,000 square feet, the same size as the current one. The plan also seeks approval for gas pumps for the 7- Eleven store that recently opened in the old building.
       The current building has two of its three spaces leased. Southwestern at one time had said it was considering a liquor store in one of those spaces, but Glenn told the neighbors that possiblity is now “nil.” What's more likely is a dentist, a cleaners or a specialty shop; there will be “nothing risque,” he said.
       This statement prompted neighbor Sean Chambers to ask if the developers would limit the types of uses as a condition of record. There was no outright opposition to that suggestion, although specifics on how it might get accomplished were not worked out at the meeting.

Westside Pioneer article