Commission OKs security gates for Railwalk shops

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Mark Wineka
Storefronts in the developing Railwalk area will have double-folding security gates, not unlike what New York or Washington, D.C., merchants pull across their doors at the close of business.
The Salisbury Historic Preservation Commission approved this week the scissors-type folding gates for properties at 405-407 N. Lee St. and 409-413 N. Lee St.
But a couple of commission members expressed concerns that the security gates would give the wrong impression for this growing arts and business district, which is utilizing old warehouses owned by Rowan Investment Co.
Representing Rowan Investment, John Ketner said the company simply wants to protect the new storefront glass in the warehouses from being an easy target for vandals.
“Generally speaking, they (the gates) would be open more than they are closed,” Ketner said. “… The issue is what happens after dark.”
The Looking Glass art collective is located at 405 N. Lee St.
Commission members Judy Kandl and Anne Waters voted against the gates.
Kandl expressed reservations as to whether the gates are compatible in the district, even if the buildings are in an industrial, warehouse area.
Part of the commission’s charge is to consider the visual appropriateness of the gates, and they reminded her of something you might see in the Bowery or on a skid row, Kandl said.
Garage doors that were in place where storefronts are or will be never gave the impression of strongholds, some members added.
Ketner and architect Gray Stout noted the design difficulties in using garage doors as a way to provide the protection needed. (In approving tax credits for the properties, the National Park Service OK’d the look of an overhead garage door in a fixed position above the storefronts.)
Commission member Susan Hurt saw a charm associated with the security gates. At dusk in New York, she said, the sight and sound of merchants closing their gates and making their businesses secure is a daily ritual.
The commission voted 4-2 for the security gates, which will be 8 feet high. Those voting for the request were Hurt, Anne Lyles, Deborah Johnson and Andrew Pitner.
Rowan Investment made several other requests in connection with some of the Railwalk properties along North Lee Street.
The commission also approved gooseneck lights, metal awnings and wall-mounted security lights for over the doors at 409-413 N. Lee St. and 415 N. Lee St.
It also OK’d installation of a new storefront, just like the one at 405 N. Lee St., for the southern end of the property at 409-413 N. Lee St. In addition, that property will have a new overhead door on the northern end.
In another case, Andrew Hodges will return with a revised plan for a new driveway access to his house at 700 S. Fulton St.
Hodges had proposed a curved driveway in the side yard next to West Thomas Street. He described the safety concerns he had about backing a vehicle from behind his house onto West Thomas Street.
But commission members expressed concerns that the proposed curved drive would come too close to house and not meet the design guidelines they must follow.
“It pretty much takes out the side yard,” Hurt said.
Another concern was that cars would be parked on the new drive and essentially be visible in the side yard.
Kandl and others advised Hodges to look at finding an alternative access off the alley in back.
Hodges also is seeking permission to erect a 6-foot-high wooden fence in his rear yard. The location of the fence will depend on where the new driveway access might be.