Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Lack defends vision for transit center


The City of Santa Barbara’s Redevelopment Agency and the Metropolitan Transportation District are currently reviewing the qualifications of 10 developers who hope to be selected to submit their vision of a new downtown transit center.
The Santa Barbara City Council has expressed interest in building a “transit village,” which will be located at the transit center’s current spot at 1020 Chapala St. The transit village would consist of mixed-use development that would expand MTD use and include commercial use, housing and public parking.

On Nov. 15, the day of the deadline for developers to submit their qualifications, David Lack, CEO and president of Lack Construction, submitted a full-blown proposal for the transit village, complete with architectural renderings and images.
Since then, much has been said about Lack’s proposal, and in a statement released yesterday by Renee Brooke, redevelopment specialist for the city, she makes it clear no proposal, specifically Lack’s, is currently being considered.
“The RFQ did not request design plans for the project, and the review committee will not consider or review any plans or concept drawings that have been submitted,” Brooke said. “The conceptual project plans and renderings proposed by Lack Construction, which have been the subject of recent public discussion, were not solicited by the city, RDA or MTD, and are not under consideration by the RDA or MTD.”
Brooke said in past interviews with the Daily Sound that individual proposals will be requested when the number of developers is whittled down to only a few.
So it’s conceivable that Lack may not even make it to the second round.
So why spend time and money putting a detailed plan together? Lack told the Daily Sound yesterday one of the main reasons was to get the public and city thinking about the possibilities for the project.
“My idea was to start to get feedback and ideas from the community on the project and we are,” Lack said. “I’m not trying to step ahead of the city on this stuff, if it works out and we’re chosen great, we’ll work with the community. If not, no hard feelings.”
Lack noted that a large part of the city’s vision for the transit village is making it LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified, and he happens to specialize in that type of building. As a result, he’s hopeful for his chances of eventually being selected to submit an official proposal.
Lack’s vision for the transit village is lofty. It is a four story building with suspended walkways over Chapala and Figueroa Streets, with 56,597 square feet of residential space and nearly 56,000 square feet of retail space, with 16 docks for buses and 400 parking spaces – more than double what currently exists.
Whether or not this vision complies with the city’s historic El Pueblo Viejo District standards is yet to be seen. But in her statement, Brooke reassured residents that whatever is eventually built at the site, will.
“As stated in the RFQ, the project is in the historic El Pueblo Viejo District, and it ‘will need to be compatible with the surrounding area in terms of mass, bulk, scale, and architectural style.’”
Lack noted that in order for a building to be dubbed LEED certified at the gold level, some of the building’s aesthetics might not jive with the city’s Spanish style image.
Brooke said a best-case scenario would see ground broken for the transit village in three to four years.
So while Lack’s ambitious proposal may seem premature, he believes the sooner decision makers and the public start smoothing out the edges of any proposal, the better. And besides, he said it’s his style.
“It’s my nature,” Lack said. “I can just tell you right know; if I am chosen, I’ll do it the way the community wants it done and will expedite it and it will be done right.”

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