Last night's historic district commission meeting, a once-a-month real estate reporting Wednesday night prison, dragged on for more than three and a half hours. It might still be going. We left so we are not sure. For more than an hour the conversation centered on the Pavilion Apartments, a Mies Van Der Rohe rental building managed by The Habitat Company which had two suited representatives in attendance trying to get a proposal passed to make some changes to the building's parking lot, exterior lighting, signage, and landscaping. No one was having it and by the end the management had to withdraw the application. They were told to come back once they had communicated with the building renters and the neighboring residents.
According to the management, the building has a serious car theft problem. They are claiming a rash of car thefts. They told the HDC that there had been 10 cars stolen in two months. When pressed, they said that not all of the thefts were reported to the police, but that residents had told management. They claimed that by moving the entrance to the parking lot from Rivard Street around the corner, to Antietam, that the lot would be safer.
Both the HDC and local residents had problems with this. Only one actual Pavilion renter was present, and claimed that building residents had not be told about the planned changes nor the rash of car thefts. One HDC commissioner suggested that the building simply add a gate to the exiting entrance (it doesn't have one now) rather than move the entry around the corner to the much more narrow street where it might cause more traffic problems.
Local developer-ish type Joel Landy, who developed the Leland Lofts across the street, panned pretty much everything in the proposal and was the only one to criticize the Pavilion management for asking to remove the grass mounds in front of the building in favor of a new landscaping plan. He was also against the installation of new, brighter parking lot lights. Many of the units in the Leland face this parking lot.
But the most adamant critics of the proposed new lighting and entrance were residents of the neighboring townhome co-ops, also designed by Mies. These property owners, who have full length glass windows facing the rental building parking lot said that Mies Van Der Rohe would not approve of these plans. Because apparently once you buy a Mies you get to commune with a dead architect. (This option not offered to renters). They claimed that the new entrance would put car headlights into their windows and that the new parking lot overhead lights would ruin their nights. One lady claimed to have dug through local crime reports finding no evidence of this rash of car thefts.
In the end this boiled down to a real failure to talk to the tenants, both about the alleged crime, and the plans to make the building safer. The HDC wanted to know why only one building resident came, and it was made clear that the Pavilion management had not told the residents about the proposal. One would assume that the management had not told them about the car thefts because they were concerned residents would move out, and wanted to keep the whole thing quiet. The management did not give a clear answer on this. The Pavilion claimed that it was standard for them to wait until after a proposal was approved to inform tenants.
Currently the Pavilion pays two parking lot guard cars to operate from 6:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. They say they've added more cameras and are on their second security company in 3 years. This led to further discussion of what a gated community is and if Mies would like it. (He would not). A co-op resident reminded us that Mies liked sunken parking lots in general, though he had not bothered to design one for this building.
With no one from the public supporting the proposal and many against it, the HDC encouraged the Pavilion to withdraw the application and come back once it had supporters in the building and who lived in the surrounding real estate. The head commissioner called the whole ordeal a "terrible communication issue" on the part of the building management.
While the whole proposal was dumped, there was one person in support of the new building signage, which would remove the word "luxury" from the under the building name.