Truckee officials talk Railyard development details as deadline looms | SierraSun.com

Truckee officials talk Railyard development details as deadline looms

A rendering of a balcony view from an apartment planned as part of phase one of the Truckee Railyard project.

TRUCKEE, Calif. — "We're in the moment of truth this summer," said Truckee Railyard developer Rick Holliday, speaking to the Truckee Town Council and Truckee Planning Commission on Tuesday.

Holliday, who has been working on the much-delayed Railyard project for 12 years, was referring to the fact amendments to the master plan need to be finalized by September to keep the Railyard project on track.

"If by September, we can't get our arms around the issues that are here," Holliday said during Tuesday's joint workshop with both governing bodies about the 75-acre mixed-use redevelopment planned just east of downtown, "then we anticipate we don't have a project."

The reason is the Railyard's first approved building, the Truckee Artist Lofts — a mixed-income/affordable housing project developed by CFY Development — is up for a 9 percent low-income housing tax credit on Sept. 21, 2016.

All told, much of the $14 million in secured grant funding for the Railyard project is tied to the affordable housing development, according to previous reports.

"Let's keep doing everything we can to keep this Artist Lofts project on track," Tony Lashbrook, Truckee town manager, said in a phone interview Thursday. "Because of it's affordable in nature, that drives the infrastructure funding. If they get the tax credits, hopefully we'll be ready to roll at that time with the master plan."

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Essentially, there are still components of the master plan that need to be ironed out before CFY Development, if awarded, is required to accept or reject a tax credit allocation from the state of California. The developer's deadline to accept or reject the award is Oct. 1.

Affordable housing plan policy

This led to a discussion during Tuesday's workshop — which lasted about 4 and a half hours — about the Railyard's affordable housing plan policy, which is still being refined.

Truckee Mayor Joan deRyk Jones said she would "love to see a very broad range of what we call affordable housing; some way that makes it affordable that fits our community."

Truckee's town ordinance requires affordable housing to be 15 percent inclusionary — meaning, for every 100 housing units, 15 have to be affordable.

The approved Truckee Artist Lofts would include 77 apartments, including 66 affordable housing units restricted to households earning 30 percent to 60 percent of the area's median income.

"The question is," Lashbrook said Thursday, "does every building or land use application in the Railyard have to meet the town requirements on a standalone basis, or can we use the Artists Lofts 66 affordable units against future requirements?"

Movie Theater

Another topic the council and planning commission spent a significant amount of time discussing Tuesday night was the movie theater — specifically, whether the Railyard project should maintain priority processing if there is no movie theater within Phase 1.

In the original proposal, a movie theater was to be located in the Rail House building, a primarily high-end condominium project, on the first block of the easterly downtown extension.

Yet, the development team has not made a firm commitment to build a movie theater, according to town staff.

"It's been sold since 2009 as a project with a theater," said Mayor Jones. "That 2009 (Railyard) document was fully vetted; there was a huge public outpouring of support and analysis. I'm of the belief that the theater is a critical component of this project."

During public comment, Steven and Melissa Siig, owners of Tahoe Art Haus & Cinema in Tahoe City, said they would like the opportunity to be operators of a theater project.

"We would love to come to Truckee," said Steven Siig, noting he feels strongly that a theater in Truckee should have three or four screens, rather than the seven or eight in the original Railyard master plan. "We think it should have an art house feel — we think it has a better identity for the town. More than just movies, we think it should have live entertainment access to it, as well — one room to have music, comedy, etc."

Holliday said the theater "isn't going to be taken away" and he's "trying to get a plan finished" this summer.

Mass and scale

The parties also discussed the overall size of the project, with the consensus being that the buildings should have varying levels of mass and scale.

In other words, the town does not want all buildings to mirror the approved Truckee Artist Lofts, which span 121,000 square feet and rise four stories.

"I don't want to build a wall of 50-foot-high buildings in this town," said Holliday, before adding, "I think mass and scale matter, but I recoil when people say, 'I think it should be 30 feet because that will feel better.' I do feel like we would want the ability to earn the trust as we go through and build the buildings."

Parking strategy

There were also discussions about the parking management plan, which is still being developed. The plan in the works is taking the approach of reducing and managing parking demand while ensuring parking supply is shared as much as possible, according to town staff.

"We need to recognize that too much parking can be as bad as too little parking," said Jeff Tumlin, a consultant with Nelson/Nygaard, which has been tasked with refining big-picture strategies into implementation actions. "We want your entire downtown to be what we all a 'park-once' district, where someone parks once and can walk around to multiple areas."

Notably, the 77-unit Truckee Artist Lofts will have 46 on-site parking spaces, and the remainder of the parking demand will be addressed in the parking management plan.

What's next?

The Railyard master plan amendments and development agreement will go before the planning commission on Tuesday, Aug. 16.

If approved, the Railyard project will go to the town council for a final vote on Tuesday, Sept. 20.

"We're very excited about the Railyard," said Lashbrook on Thursday. "The opportunity to double the size of the downtown was envisioned way back in '95 and '96 when we were working on the original downtown specific plan. To see us get this close to breaking round is pretty exciting."

The Railyard is projected to break ground on May 1, 2017.

More online

The entire Railyard development is planned just east of downtown. Visit truckeerailyard.com for detailed plans, project history, maps and more.