New design standards expected to help spur economic development
When the new 7-Eleven on Colleyville Boulevard opened its doors at the end of the May, it was heralded as a small win for the city, which has been working hard in recent years to attract and retain businesses. But for Colleyville, it is not just what is on the inside that matters anymore.
The new 7-Eleven is one of a number of new businesses that will open along Colleyville Boulevard this summer under a new set of commercial development standards approved by the City Council in December. The updated ordinance governing the design of commercial and institutional buildings is meant to help improve the appearance of structures throughout town, but beyond that it is a move to spruce up the city's image and spur economic development — especially along Colleyville Boulevard.
"This is our economic spine," said Marty Wieder, the city's economic development director. "All our businesses are important, but let's face it: the majority of our commercially zoned properties are located along Colleyville Boulevard."
The Great Recession, paired with traffic congestion spurred by growth in the region, hit the corridor hard, forcing fast turnovers for some businesses and the slow demise of others that had been there for years. Today, For Lease signs hang in the windows of storefronts large and small, and brand new buildings intermingle with decades-old properties. City officials hope that by improving Colleyville's image overall, both business owners and residents will benefit.
"Curb appeal is very important," city spokeswoman Mona Gandy said. "So if it is a new business looking to locate in Colleyville and maybe they are looking at other places, it looks like a neighborhood that maybe they want to be a part of, just like the way you would assess a house."
In 1996, the City Council adopted the building design ordinance to encourage buildings to be designed more like residential structures, to prevent box-like structures and to improve a building's appearance. New recommendations for the ordinance were approved on Dec. 13.
"It had been 15 years since we had updated the ordinance and so ... we wanted to go in and make it more consistent and uniform for all commercial zoning districts," said Ron Ruthven, the city's community development director.
The ordinance affects new commercial as well as institutional buildings, such as hospitals and churches. Existing businesses and institutions are also affected if owners seek additions or renovations that amount to 50 percent or more of the building's value. The updated standards fills in the gaps where descriptions are missing, Ruthven said. Among the updates are the inclusion of institutional buildings to the ordinance; the addition of illustrations to make requirements easier for readers to understand; a building colors section that prohibits florescent colors; and an increase in masonry requirements for exterior walls.
"We have a lot of buildings in existence that can either be improved or maximized, and that's what this new set of design standards will accomplish," Wieder said.
Maximizing the city's business potential is not only on the minds of city leaders, but also on the minds of Colleyville residents.
In the Colleyville 2012 Citizen Survey, 48 percent of respondents noted the city needs to focus on encouraging new business development and another 11 percent of respondents noted retaining existing businesses from among 10 options given.
In addition to updating their standards, city leaders are putting their money where their mouths are. Last May, the council approved the first $15,000 matching grant to be used for improvements to a building on Colleyville Boulevard near the entrance of The Village. It later approved two $15,000 matching grants that allowed Tom and Ying Aikens to transform a space formerly occupied by Peter's Pizzeria into Next Wood Fired Bistro & Vino Bar. The Londoner Pub, a popular Uptown Dallas restaurant with plans to open a second location on Colleyville Boulevard, recently applied for a $10,000 matching grant that will be considered in the coming weeks.
"The key is you begin to do what we call placemaking; you make it a place where people want to be — it is attractive and well-landscaped," Wieder said.
As a building's appearance is its first impression, the new standards score buildings on five factors: faade articulation, vertical departure, shade coverage, horizontal and diagonal roof planes, and fenestration. The new standards cap points in each area at 10 and require that buildings meet a minimum score of 30. If a building fails to meet the design requirements, its owners can add more architectural enhancements to increase the score or apply for a variance to be considered by the recently formed Architectural Review Commission and the City Council. However, officials say, building owners also benefit from the new standards. Michael Montgomery, construction director for the new 7-Eleven, agreed.
"The better the store looks, the more people are comfortable in being here," he said. "And that is something that we would like to project, because when you look at an older station down the street and you had your choice between that station and this station, people tend to gravitate towards the nicer stores."