The city's Design Review Committee maintained its composure during a tense meeting on Dec. 18 as residents living near of the site of a planned Day Worker Center continued to express their outrage.
"Can you have a seat please," said chair Nancy Minicucci to a man who stood up to interrupt. "We're just discussing the design."
A half dozen neighbors showed up who oppose putting a new Day Worker Center at 113 Escuela Ave., even though the committee couldn't address their concerns. (The city's zoning administrator will decide whether to approve a conditional use permit in February.) The project is a remodel of a long-vacant 3,496-square-foot cinderblock building bought by the center for $300,000 earlier this year.
Neighbors used the word "unacceptable" to describe the project several times, and complained that it would lower their property values.
"People are going to say, 'I don't want to be here -- this is not where I want to raise my children,'" said neighbor Dean Birney.
Neighbor Brad Kellar said the lot was zoned for residential, and that the Day Worker Center "corporation" should find an industrial neighborhood. Minicucci said community center-type uses are also acceptable on Escuela Avenue, where the city also has its Senior Center.
"Why don't you just build residences?" said Birney, who added that he was against "human trafficking."
"We live here -- this is our home."
The neighbors complained about a large sign proposed the front of the facility which would list the center's fax number and Web site address. There were other proposals they also didn't like: a bike rack large enough to hold 32 bikes, the lack of a front porch, a lack of parking and a bench that made the area look like a "bus stop."
Day Worker Center board president Robin Iwai disagreed with the neighbors, saying the project would "remodel and upgrade" an eyesore building. "I can't see how that would be anything but an improvement."
Not every neighbor opposed the project.
"When I first moved to the neighborhood I thought it was a curious looking building," said Steve Chandler. "Already it looks better" from being cleaned up, he said. "I'm real in support of this."
The committee, which is made up of two architects and a city planner, went on to make numerous recommendations to make the plan look less "industrial" and more "residential."
"If this is going to work better with the neighborhood it needs to have a concept of a front porch with a more welcoming [front door," said Linda Poncini. "This door is not appropriate."
The committee architects recommended that the "industrial" style awning in the plan be replaced by trellis. Architect Larry Cannon said good landscaping would be the key to producing a residential look.
The center's architect, David Luedtke, said the center was hoping to achieve LEED certification for the building.
The Day Worker Center is currently located at Trinity United Methodist Church at the corner of Hope and Mercy streets downtown. It houses about 100 workers every day.
For more information, see www.dayworkercentermv.org.