Monday, March 29, 2010

'Pin-ups', presentation show how Bellevue can build on historic fabric

The results of a four-day planning charrette examining a form-based code for the City of Bellevue were presented to the public last Thursday at the Callahan Community Center.

The concluding presentation by consultants PlaceMakers, LLC gave the first concrete look into the work in which more than 100 Bellevue residents, business owners and political leaders have been engaged since January.

What has emerged in two months of visioning and planning workshops, given the motto "Preserving the Past, Preparing for the Future" is the desire to protect Bellevue's historic, walkable neighborhoods while replicating the look and feel of that fabric in future infill and redevelopment.

"We've been so inspired by how you've done the first part [of that motto]," said Susan Henderson, project principal for PlaceMatters. "We go to some places and have to try to convince people that walkability is a good thing. You're already living it."

But some areas, such as the underperforming shopping center along Riviera and Donnermeyer drives, a rather uninspiring gateway entrance into the west side of the city along Fairfield Avenue (KY-8), and portions of the riverfront, do not conform to that look and feel.

The form-based code looks to create a vision of what might be possible by creating denser, mixed uses, connecting neighborhoods, and improving access to public spaces.

And best of all, it's not restrictive – form-based codes describe building form, massing, and relationship to the street rather than specific land uses.

"It makes it the easiest process for a property owner and a developer, as long as they're agreeing to the vision [of the form-based code]" said Jody Robinson, Bellevue's assistant city administrator. "What Bellevue is most strident about is we don't want to be 20-story buildings. We want to retain the character of what our founding fathers put in place for us."

The shopping center, an unpleasant and harsh sea of asphalt parking lots under multiple owners, presented project planners the most problems.

Built in the 1960s, Robinson said that the city fears the center will fall into further disrepair as Americans' attitudes about retail continue to change.

"When you're at the shopping center today, there's no sense of place," she said. "You have to be in a vehicle. If not, you're very, very uncomfortable."

These draft documents, Robinson said, already are starting to get some property owners in the area to re-think the center's future.

"We don't anticipate things to happen overnight, or all at once when they do happen," she said. "What it does is say, if something were to happen, we now want it to feel like Bellevue. It's only going to happen when it's good for the property owner, and this code can insure that it's good for the community."

In addition to PlaceMatters, Robinson, and Bellevue Zoning Administrator John Yung, the project team includes Jeff Raser of glaserworks and Lori Lollike of T-Six Urbanists.

This team plans another public meeting before the draft code is presented to the planning commission and city council this summer. Updates also will be posted on the project website for public review and comment.

"That's what's been so great, we've had everyone here," Robinson said. "We've had young people here, we've had elderly people, we've had professionals. We've had the well-educated, we've had adults without high school diplomas. And we've had everything from large commercial property owners to renters."

Robinson said that the charrette has been a proud moment, because it's a great example for the rest of the region of how the government, the public, and community stakeholders can work together for a common vision.

If adopted, it would be the first form-based code implemented in the Greater Cincinnati region.

"I'm sure it's going to disappoint some people who want more 'colorful'," she said. "But I think we're going to have the most beautiful, and the most friendly place."

Previous reading on BC:
Cincinnati form-based code initiative moves forward (2/5/09)
Cincinnati may appropriate $50,000 to hire form-based code consultant (12/3/08)
Report on form-based code overlays due in November (10/23/08)



Sean F. said...

Being between an affluent part of Newport and the up and coming Bellevue, that Donnermeyer Dr. area has a crazy amount of potential. Hopefully the property owners realize the amount of money they could make by recreating a neighborhood feeling here.

Jeff Raser said...

For more information about Bellevue's SmartCode go to the project web site:

For more information about the Form Based Code Initiative in the Cincinnati region see

The Placemakers and glaserworks links in the article were broken. They are:

Kevin LeMaster said...


Thanks for bringing the broken links to my attention. I have no idea what happened there, but they've been fixed.

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