Thursday, April 4, 2019
by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
Two years ago Frank Gladu who oversees the Sewanee Village project made a promise “not to cut my beard until we build something.” Gladu will soon get to cut his beard. At the April 2 Sewanee Village update meeting, Gladu announced the long-awaited groundbreaking for the new bookstore along with reviewing other high momentum initiatives, narrowing U.S. Hwy. 41A and construction of a mixed-use grocery and apartment building.
“The bookstore underwent a redesign to conform to the budget,” Gladu said. Abandoning the double-gable design, the smaller footprint building is L-shaped with two stories, which saved money by avoiding dealing with the drop off in back, according to Gladu. The site will offer 12 parking spaces.
The bookstore groundbreaking is scheduled for 1:30 p.m., April 13. “Groundbreaking isn’t building, though,” Gladu pointed out. He’ll wait to cut his beard until the foundation is poured.
Turning to other Village initiatives, Gladu said the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) has finalized the design for narrowing U.S. Hwy. 41A for the half-mile stretch between Kennerly Road and Kentucky Avenue. A recent development in the highway project resulted in TDOT incorporating the Mountain Goat Trail into the design. The Mountain Goat Trail Alliance lobbied TDOT, citing state legislation that provided for including multi-modal trails in highway projects. The trail will be extended for several blocks through the center of the Village.
Asked about the inspiration for narrowing the highway Gladu explained, “We want to make it less of a highway and more of a city street by calming traffic.”
“Narrowing the highway worked to calm traffic in Monteagle,” observed longtime resident Lynn Stubblefield.
Narrowing the highway will allow for six-foot sidewalks and six-foot planting strips on both sides. There will also be a pedestrian activated crosswalk. The University will bear financial responsibility for the actual plantings, any additional lighting needed, and relocating utilities, if necessary.
The highway will continue to have two left turn lanes, and the right turn lane coming from Monteagle at the downtown intersection will be eliminated, Gladu said. The University hopes TDOT will decide to lower the speed limit from 35 mph to 25 mph. TDOT will hold a public meeting on the design after it is presented to the county.
“The problem with change is it’s hard for drivers to keep up with,” insisted a concerned resident, who objected to eliminating turn lanes and the lower speed limit.
Updating the group on the mixed-use grocery and apartment building under design by BP Construction, Gladu said the 10,000 square footprint structure proposed in the initial village plan would likely be reduced to 7,000 square feet and have two stories instead of three.
After carefully considering the project, BP decided it would be less expensive to build a smaller building and easier to fill the units, Gladu explained. The developers are working on a design with six studio apartments and six single-bedroom apartments on the second floor, a 5,000 square foot food market on the ground floor, and several other retail units.
Gladu anticipates the food market will be two and half to three times the size of the current market. “The food market will offer produce, meat, dairy, everything a regular grocery store has,” he said.
“University employees are the intended residents for the rental apartments,” Gladu said. Gladu pointed out that the only reason the University was involved in offering campus rental units was to assist incoming employees in transitioning to the area.
“BP is pricing out the project to determine their ability to rent and lease the space. They won’t build until they have at least 70 percent of the space leased,” said Gladu.
Gladu said BP would hold a commercial lease with the University like all other Sewanee businesses. Lease holders must provide the Lease Office with information over prospective subleases, Gladu noted, giving the Lease Office some say about tenants.