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  • Writer's pictureMacdonald Architects

Plan for Pini’s parcel holds great potential

Plans for building a mixed-use complex at Novato’s long-vacant former Pini’s Hardware site makes a lot of sense and holds a lot of promise.

The location, near the busy hub of Redwood Boulevard and Grant Avenue, is prime for both retail and commercial use and housing.

Downtown Novato needs both, and a dose of interesting architecture could make the building a local landmark. Its approach of opening out toward the corner of Grant and First avenues is an attractive element.

The property is next to an older neighborhood of smaller homes and any design, especially if it’s three stories, should address concerns that its height might be an abrupt difference. The same goes for parking.

City officials need to take steps to make sure possible parking problems are addressed at the front end of the process, not a neighborhood and City Hall headache for years afterward.

The proposal calls for building 32 apartments above 13,000 square feet of ground floor commercial space. Six of the units would be reserved for affordable housing.

Neighbors, many of whom are eager to see the long-vacant building replaced with housing and business opportunities, are worried about parking. City planners should look into addressing those concerns now rather than planning to address the problem later with a downtown wide strategy.

Despite efforts to encourage more people to use public transit or to ride bikes, getting around by car is a reality for many people across Marin. Limiting parking in hopes of forcing people to give up their cars sounds better on paper than it does in day-to-day living in Novato.

Having the housing within walking distance of a new downtown SMART train station, however, should benefit the development and help attract future tenants.

Planners need to make sure they are indeed planning for a development that will be a community benefit and not a neighborhood headache.

The city Planning Commission has been supportive of the proposal. It should be. Planners know this project addresses two primary concerns — providing a spark to bolster a growing economy in downtown Novato and providing much-needed housing.

For nearly 15 years, since Pini’s moved to another Novato site, the building has stood vacant. This proposal makes sense and deserves a community planning process to make sure all concerns are addressed.

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