EQB Hears Update on Sewanee Village Plan

by Leslie Lytle

Messenger Staff Writer

“If we get three or four new buildings in the next five years, I’m declaring victory,” said Frank Gladu, Vice President of Administrative Services who oversees the University initiative to revitalize downtown Sewanee. Gladu addressed the EQB at the Oct. 19 lunch meeting, updating the group on the Sewanee Village Plan, which originated five years ago in conjunction with the University Master Plan’s new vision.

“We want the downtown area to be a place for visitors,” Gladu said, “but even more important, we want it to be a place students, faculty, and staff can feel part of.” Gladu acknowledged using the words “village” and “downtown” interchangeably, stressing the importance of defining the boundaries of the area which includes 130 leaseholds. In July, the County Commission approved rezoning the area to mixed-use allowing for both commercial and residential development.

“Our priorities are the Highway 41A intersection, a grocery-type market, a village green, and housing,” Gladu said.

“We want to support the businesses already here,” he insisted. “We know we need more housing.” Gladu emphasized that being “able to support more people” was a prerequisite to expanding retail development.

Two years ago, the University retained Town Planning and Urban Design Collaborative (TPUDC) to guide the planning process. Discussions with the Franklin County Planning Commission (FCPC) resulted in amendments to county zoning regulations which will facilitate implementation of the plan.

The FCPC recently voted to allow increased population density for residences and to allow residences which did not front a county street. This makes possible cottage-court type housing where small residences are arranged in a circular pattern to share a communal space.

To identify developers interested in presenting viable designs consistent with the Sewanee Village Plan, the University issued a Request for Qualifications in August. Gladu said three developers have already responded, two with proposals for cottage-court style residences.

The Sewanee Village Plan actively involves both sides of Highway 41A, calling for street-side parking along the highway and some sort of pedestrian activated crosswalk.

Gladu said the parking shortage on University Ave. would be addressed by street-side parking and parking behind the businesses. In keeping with regulations, handicapped parking will be incorporated into the design.

Speaking to concerns about the future of the Senior Citizens’ Center and Community Center, Gladu said, “There is no plan to move the Senior Center or Community Center at the present. When that day comes we’ll work with them to relocate. Both are important parts of the Village. We want them in downtown.”

Gladu came to Sewanee in 2012 to oversee the transition of University Food Service to self-management and quickly became involved in the initiative to revitalize downtown. “I welcome the views of those who have far more experience in this place than I do,” he said.

Asked about the future of the Sewanee Village Plan and if it would be abandoned if there was a change in administration, Gladu acknowledged, “That’s always a possibility. The Sewanee Village Plan is a plan for the ages. The hope is that it will be incorporated into future master plans. My charge is to see that it moves forward.”