FYI-Econo Lodge expansion, new road, sketched out in West Homewood

A dream concept of a West Homewood commercial district built to specified "village" forms. The first building to be redeveloped under the new district will test how well the concept is realized.

A dream concept of a West Homewood commercial district built to specified “village” forms. The first building to be redeveloped under the new district — an aging EconoLodge motel–will test how well the concept is realized.

First test of the new West Homewood District

Last month the council was reminded that it must empanel a design review committee to oversee a redevelopment application in the new West Homewood District. The new district, passed by the planning commission a year ago and ratified by the council in May, includes 24 mainly commercial parcels on Oak Grove Road and Oxmoor Road where any future development must be built to new appearance standards resembling the form of a neighborhood village, with walkable, easy-to-access storefronts and small businesses.

Existing buildings are of course grandfathered. Now, however, the EconoLodge on the corner of Cobb Street and Oxmoor Road has proposed a sweeping multi-phase expansion and redevelopment starting with a proposed four-story extended stay hotel fronting Oxmoor. Engineering drawings also indicate the reappearance of the city’s earlier proposal to build a new two-lane road connecting Cobb Street to Oxmoor Boulevard via an extension of Scott Street.  Interestingly, the latest drawing closely resembles a 2013 drawing from an early draft of the West Homewood District plan. More on that later.

This bird's-eye-view looks north over the Lodge Lodge at the intersection of Oxmoor Road and Cobb Street by a Chevron station (upper right). The overlay shows most of the existing motel to be removed except for an L-shaped section facing Cobb Street (to the right), which would be renovated. The company is asking to rebuild the section on Oxmoor (center, top) as an extended-stay hotel with four stories--a height that exceeds West Homewood District regulations without a special waiver by the review panel. A two-lane road shown on this plan would run between the motel and an adjacent dentist office (lower right), and meet Scott Street at an intersection being improved as part of ALDOT's Oxmoor Road improvement project. The road is a city proposal not shown on plans for the ALDOT project, which was scheduled to be underway this year. Ideas to be phased in later include a new office and expanded parking on property behind Gillon Street houses, and an office or mixed-use building wrapping around Oxmoor and the new road.

This bird’s-eye-view looks north over the EconoLodge at the intersection of Oxmoor Road and Cobb Street by a Chevron station (upper right). The overlay shows most of the existing motel to be removed except for an L-shaped section facing Cobb Street (to the right), which would be renovated. The company is asking to rebuild the section on Oxmoor (center, top) as an extended-stay hotel with four stories–a height that exceeds West Homewood District regulations without a special waiver by the review panel. A two-lane road shown on this plan would run between the motel and an adjacent dentist office (lower right), and meet Scott Street at an intersection being improved as part of ALDOT’s Oxmoor Road improvement project. The road is a city proposal not shown on plans for the ALDOT project, which was scheduled to be underway this year. Ideas to be phased in later include a new office and expanded parking on property behind Gillon Drive houses, and an office or mixed-use building wrapping around Oxmoor and the new road. CLICK TO ENLARGE

Public hearing for establishing review committee and by-laws

It is the first phase application of this redevelopment that prompted the city last month to begin activating the mandated Community Development Review Committee and to adopt the CDRC’s operating procedures–all of which will first get a public hearing on Monday, April 13, at the 6 p.m. council meeting.

The motel plans are not part of this hearing, but will be presented to the new CDRC once members are seated.

The CDRC –not the Planning Commission–will be the governing body for the new district because its new form-based regulations supplant traditional zoning rules. By ordinance, the CDRC is composed of the mayor, a city council member, a Planning Commission member, the city engineer (Vanessa McGrath) and Fire Marshal. (unfavorable decisions by the CDRC can be appealed to the city’s BZA, and then to Jefferson County circuit court.)

Then and now

This 2013 illustration shows Scott Street extended behind the Econo Lodge to Cobb Street. The unpopular idea was withdrawn when the final plan was passed in 2014.

This detail of a 2013 illustration shows Scott Street extended behind the Econo Lodge to Cobb Street, and reflects parts of the motel expansion just made public. CLICK TO ENLARGE

2013 The extension of Scott Street through the neighborhood appeared in a 2013 draft of the West Homewood District plan, where it would mesh with an extensive ALDOT road improvement project scheduled for Oxmoor Road. It was eliminated from the revised version passed in 2014.

ALDOT later discarded the roundabout at Scott Street shown in this Regional Planning Commission’s drawing.

 

 

The final West Homewood District plan passed in 2014 does not show an extension of Scott Street through the neighborhood.

The 2014 illustration drops a reference to extending Scott Street. CLICK TO ENLARGE

2014 The Scott Street extension did not appear in the drawing for the final district plan, adopted in 2014.

Provisions for the West Homewood Renewal District, and maps, are on page 38 of the city’s latest zoning ordinance.

In gathering information about the motel’s plan, city staff initially said the motel’s engineering drawing wasn’t public until the application was complete. That decision was later reversed, allowing these cell phone pictures to serve as a first look at how the new West Homewood “Village” District might unfold.

The Econo Lodge motel recently underwent relatively minor upgrades, and sports bright orange guest room doors.

The Econo Lodge motel recently underwent relatively minor upgrades, with bright orange paint on outdoor guest room doors. Click to enlarge.

City officials offer these points, and cautions about the EconoLodge’s plans:

    • The motel’s application wasn’t complete as of one week ago, and much of the drawing is subject to change;
    • The application being submitted only includes changes planned to the motel–not the expanded parking, road, or office building development.
    • The motel’s request for four stories exceeds district height regulations without a special waiver.
    • The proposed Scott Street extension would provide a left turn alternative from Cobb Street onto Oxmoor, which the ALDOT project will eliminate at the existing intersection. The road would come before the Planning Commission, not the CDRC.
    • It is the opinion of city staff that the neighborhood would love having a new road that would bring in traffic off Oxmoor. City staff believe the road will also create a clear dividing line between commercial zoning and houses on Gillon Drive.
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6 responses to “FYI-Econo Lodge expansion, new road, sketched out in West Homewood

  1. I totally agree that this place needs to be re-vamped and updated or totally needs to be gone all together, but these plans are ALL wrong for many reasons! Adding two more levels to the already 2 existing levels will totally be in mine and my neighbor’s privacy zone in our back yard! I feel bad that those people over on Grove/Kent had to have their backyards backing up to the Hampton INN and Laquinta. Not a bright idea! It is bad enough that I’ve had to look at the two story hotel my entire life in my back yard, now they want to add a street back there too? Absolutely not! I already have clear views of several light building lights and light up business signs that have been allowed to be erected over the years which include a mile high Chevron sign, Waffle house sign, several motel signs up the hill and a Brown Mackie sign that I can see out of my bedroom window. Now, thanks to some city staff ideas, I’ll be getting all the car lights driving through on that connecter street behind our property. NO THANKS! what a waste of City tax payer money.

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  2. The article says that city officials think the neighborhood wants more traffic. The opposite is true! We have too much traffic on Oxmoor Road. The last thing we need is to bring more traffic into the neighborhood. I suspect the city has only been talking to businesses, not the people who live in West Homewood. Please keep the traffic out of the neighborhood and stick with the plan to keep buildings under 2 stories!
    Cathy Crittenden

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    • I will add that, when talking to Vanessa McGrath in the city engineering department, she said she would probably vote NO to a fourth story. Vanessa, as city engineer, will be one of the five members of the new West Homewood District review committee.

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  3. There’s got to be a way to just force out the Econolodge. I know it’s possible. That place makes me uncomfortable, and I really feel bad for the people that live right up behind it because it’s just bad news…. I won’t even stop at that Chevron at night to get gas because I feel so unsafe there. Every time I do stop there (during the day), I see people up to no good in the motel parking lot, and it’s infinitely worse at night. The only way a hotel can stay in that spot and work out with this re-development plan, is if someone buys it out, demolishes it, and rebuilds a nice new higher quality hotel. Same goes for all the other sleeze-bag hotels close by…and don’t even get me started on all the garbage on Greensprings. The City of Homewood and the West Homewood re-development board has their work cut out for them. Good luck to them. I’m really starting to lose faith in this project.

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  4. An extended stay hotel in a neighborhood is not an ideal for people who have bought their homes and pay property taxes. This particular hotel can be quite sketchy and if extended stay is allowed, well, there’s just no telling what the clientele will become. I’ve heard people say that West Homewood is too industrial and heavily trafficked. If we could get commuters to not cut through the neighborhood using Raleigh Avenue, that would cut down a lot of traffic. Please listen to the residents themselves.

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