Letter – Address Grange shortcomings
Published 5:17 pm Tuesday, November 28, 2023
Editor, The Smithfield Times:
The Grange at 10Main is going to come to fruition. That is clear to anyone who has been watching. My hope is that the end result is an enhancement to our historic downtown area and is a project that will honor the tremendous legacy of Joe Luter III.
In order for it to be the best it can be, our Town Council must add some guardrails to the current proposal before voting yes.
The approval of the architecture and design of the buildings is going to be left to our Board of Historic and Architecture Review. The citizens who serve on this board are well meaning but have no expertise in ensuring that the proposed structures are architecturally correct. The developer initially partnered with the premier firm, Historical Concepts, out of Atlanta. They have the expertise to ensure the new buildings are compatible with the downtown’s existing structures. It is probably too late to bring them back, but we must have some professionals with expertise in historical design reviewing the architecture and design.
The phasing of the project is nebulous at best. The proffer reads that the farmers market and Grace Street improvements and internal roadways will be Phase 1. The timing of the next two phases “will greatly depend on market conditions and demand.” What that means is, they could build all the residential first and never get around to the commercial part (which is exactly what happened in Benn’s Grant).
I reached out to the vice chair of the Planning Commission twice, and to our town planning director, but did not receive any clarification on this. I think it is critical that the developer clarify the phasing, or better yet, instead of rezoning to a blanket “PMUD,” proceed with the rezoning based on the proposed use.
Joe Luter III has shown over and over again his commitment to and love of our town. We are fortunate that he is part of this proposal, but it is critical that the above two issues are addressed.