Tonight the city council will likely make a decision on the rezoning request for the new owners of Northgate Mall. U-Haul purchased the property several months ago and is seeking to turn it into a a major rental center. This requires rezoning to M-1 Intense Commercial/Light Industrial District. The planning commission has recommended the proposed changes, while city staff is recommending denial. City staff feels that the location is ideal for retail development due to its location and the U-Haul center would completely change the character and vision for a high-traffic commercial corner.
The plan as I understand it from reading the council agenda is that the former K’s Merchandise building would be a climate controlled storage center and the former Hollywood video store would be the retail front for U-Haul. Rental trucks and cars would be parked in front of the old video rental store along Water Street and possibly the lot to the north. I’m not clear on that one.
I’m reserving judgement until I hear more at the meeting. Pershing Road has seen significant development and redevelopment in just the past 5 years and new things are coming. If my sources are right, northsiders should be happy with what is coming to the former Maverick Steak House lot.
A vacant motel was recently torn down directly across from Northgate Mall on Pershing and is generating interest by new retailers. Now if we can just get rid of that old car wash but that’s another story…
Other changes have occurred on Pershing in the past few years. New development has occurred in front of the former WSOY radio station where several new buildings have been constructed. The lot on the corner of Jasper and Pershing Road, which formerly had a car wash is also seeking rezoning in tonight’s meeting and new retail will likely be locating there soon. So, a lot of development has recently happened or soon will be happening on Pershing Road. Now, the city council has to decide if U-Haul’s request is a good decision for the continued redevelopment of the area.
I think if the rezoning request came a couple years ago, the decision probably wouldn’t be so difficult but since Decatur is seeing significant new interest in this part of town, it’s not so easy. I’m leaning towards supporting the approval of the zoning change but it depends upon what impact it will have upon the desirability of other large vacant spaces in the mall. If the lot is going to be full of U-Haul trucks, rental cars, trailers and so forth, how does that jibe with other types of retail? That’s my concern. If some type of landscaping changes could be made separating the U-Haul parking lot from whatever might come to the rest of the shopping center, I’d be in favor. I think the impact would be minimal with some attractive, clever traffic flow changes making each area distinct. As the lot looks now, I think it would look odd.
Below: How it looks now.
And the proposed changes: (click on image for larger view), courtesy of the agenda packet:
UPDATE: Okay, I watched most of the discussion last night regarding the development and I think I would have approved the rezoning. I realize it’s a prime commercial retail location but I don’t think this would have jeopardized future development elsewhere in Northgate Mall, or along Pershing Road. Another issue is now that U-Haul owns the property, what are they going to do with it now that they can’t operate the type of business they would like to? Are they going to sit on it for years like the previous owners did? That issue wasn’t addressed last night. I hope it works out but I think the council made a hasty decision. I feel something could have been worked out to the benefit of all.