Dickinson: Plan changes address City concerns; Waterfront Committee meets Tuesday night
DOVER, NH. (April 2012) — Only a few days shy of when he will present to the City his most recent design for the waterfront development project known as Dover Landing, developer Mark Dickinson unveiled his revised concept plans before Foster’s editorial board.
Representatives of the large-scale waterfront development project spent more than an hour Friday afternoon highlighting changes that have been made to the site plans proposed for the City’s property along the Cocheco River.
Mark Dickinson, president of Dickinson Development Corp., explained that many factors have led him to revise the concept plans he presented to the Cocheco Waterfront Advisory Committee just last month.
Dickinson’s project, which is slated to include the construction of more than 100 apartment units, multiple living units atop commercial space, more than a dozen single family homes, and ample park space along the waterfront, has gone through multiple transitions since the original agreement was made in 2009.
At a March meeting, CWDAC members voiced concern with a few elements of the project, all of which Dickinson says he has addressed with his newest set concept plans.
Committee members have made it clear that they will not endorse Dickinson’s project until he could alleviate their concern. Dickinson is scheduled to meet with CWDAC and present his remedied plans on Tuesday evening.
One of the criticisms that Dickinson has come across is that his plans do not meet all requirements of the original Land Development Agreement signed between him and the city in 2009. Dickinson argues, however, that his most recent set of plans not only meets the LDA, but exceeds it on many levels.
The LDA is a roughly 30-page document that outlines the design guidelines and requirements of the waterfront project. It includes everything from the desirable square footage for commercial and residential space to the façade projections for buildings.
“Our plan has changed to conform to what Dover wants it to be,” said Dickinson of his most recent revisions.
He noted that the original LDA only requires that the developer build the entire project within a handful of phases. However, Dickinson’s plans have since evolved to include almost all of the construction in the first phase of development.
In Phase I, Dickinson Development will erect a 15,000sf building intended to house a restaurant and commercial business, three building that will house residential units on the top floors with commercial space on the bottom, 105 high-end apartment units as well as the creation of park areas and walkways along the waterfront. This is a large increase of activity slated to happen in the first phase of development, as Dickinson had originally proposed to break down the development into multiple phases.
“It just made sense,” said Dickinson when asked of the change.
He noted that constructing commercial units at the same time as the residential properties will act as an incentive to those who are looking to live in the new development.
The only construction not slated to be included in the first phase is the development of more than a dozen single-family homes along the waterfront and the yet-to-be-determined construction of the area that runs along Washington Street and River Street.
As for a timeline, Dickinson said he is looking to condense Phase I into a 12-month time frame from groundbreaking.
Dickinson noted that he has also revised his site plans to meet the parking-related requirements in the LDA. Within the development agreement, it is required of Dickinson to create parking spaces that are limited visibly from the residential sectors.
Though he had originally proposed underground parking to be built at living and commercial units, the developer said this had to be altered to the fact that it was not financially feasible. Worried that surface parking would become somewhat of a visual blight, the city has made it clear that parking needs to be contained and somewhat shielded.
With his newest set of plans, Dickinson said he has done just that.
Set behind the two, four-story apartment buildings are roughly 200 spaces in a square lot that Dickinson said will be surrounded by thick vegetation. Each commercial unit has accompanying parking behind the building so that it is sheltered from residential view, while the building near the entrance of the development that is intended to house a restaurant will have a small parking lot surrounded by trees for patrons to access.
Though he could not produce a specific number for how much parking the waterfront development project known as Dover Landing will include, he told Foster’s that it is a figure that is more than conducive to the type of use the development is expected to generate.
Aside from reworking parking to better meet the needs of the city, Dickinson has also proposed some changes in his newest site plans for roadways.
Another concern that CWDAC members have had with Dickinson’s past few site plans is the traffic flow pattern that would snake through his proposed development. Some have argued that after entering into the development from Washington Street, motorists would have to weave through buildings and parking lots in order to turn around and exit.
To mitigate this issue, Dickinson has created a small road that stretches from Washington Street to the northern side of the property in a loop-like fashion. In order to create the small, circular turnaround, Dickinson has broken up the four-story unit originally proposed to contain 108 apartments into two smaller buildings. In doing so, Dickinson and his project designers have made enough room to create the loop.
Another recurring concern Dickinson said he has sought to address through the revision of his March 2012 concept plans is what will happen with the bluff area that runs along River Street and Washington Street.
Up until now, Dickinson had been chastised for presenting site plans that showed seven acres of barren land in the area of the bluff. Members of CWDAC have asked the developer what he intends to do with the area, to which Dickinson has said he is unsure.
“We don’t really know what we’re going to do there, so I didn’t show anything,” said the developer.
Though he admits he is still unsure, Dickinson has fleshed out his newest concept plans and will present to the CWDAC on Tuesday what kind of potential structures could be erected in that area.
Included in his April 2012 concept plan for Dover Landing’s bluff area are four facilities with accompanying surface parking. Dickinson has projected that this area of the development may be suitable for a multistory hotel and conference center, two four-story buildings intended for mixed use, and a multilevel parking garage that could hold hundreds of vehicles.
Though he stressed that 160,000sf of structures within the bluff area only detail the potential use of that space at this point in time, he said he is hoping to please the members who were concerned that no development had been projected for this area of the project in the past few years.
Dickinson will take his newest set of concept plans before the CWDAC on Tuesday in hopes of receiving endorsement from the city for the project as it is most recently proposed. Once he receives the green light, he said he will be able to have his concept plans engineered to bring before the City’s Planning Board and can obtain the final permits necessary to move forward with construction.
Tuesday’s meeting between Dickinson and CWDAC will take place at 5:30 PM in Room 305 of the McConnell Center, located on Locust Street. This meeting will also be broadcast live on Dover’s Channel 22.
ABOUT DICKINSON DEVELOPMENT CORP.
-- By Laurenne Ramsdell for Foster's Daily Democrat