Ambitious Foote’s Rest hotel proposal clears first of two Frisco Town Council votes
How they voted:
First Reading, Ordinance 18-01: Amendment to Staley House purchase and sale agreement.
First Reading, Ordinance 18-02: Rezoning Foote’s Rest property to Historic Overlay District.
Jessie Burley: Absent
Kim Cancelosi: No
Rick Ihnken: Yes
Dan Kibbie: No
Hunter Mortensen: Yes
Deborah Shaner: Yes
Gary Wilkinson: Yes
The next Frisco Town Council meeting is Tuesday, Jan. 23 at 7 p.m. The agenda has not yet been set.
As another marathon meeting on Tuesday night demonstrated, the Foote’s Rest Hotel and Plaza proposal has been, in its many iterations, perhaps Frisco’s most publicly scrutinized project in years.
That may be with good reason. The 65-room boutique hotel, which also includes a bar, restaurant, rooftop pool and an underground bowling alley, would dramatically remake an entire block of Main Street. The project also involves a parcel of formerly town-owned land and a handful of historical structures, including the iconic Foote’s Rest Sweet Shoppe and Staley-Rouse House.
Developer Kelly Foote and his team went before the Frisco Town Council for the umpteenth time Tuesday night, asking members to clear a final hurdle for the project, now more than a year in the making.
After a three-and-a-half hour hearing, the council approved on a 4-2 vote the first reading of a zoning ordinance that would effectively clear the way for construction, although it must pass a second vote later this month to become final.
In an hour-long discussion before the vote, council wrestled with the proposed building’s height, noise and parking concerns, although the project’s preservation of six historic buildings in a public courtyard drew broad praise.
The scope of the three-story hotel, which would span the block between 6th and 5th avenues, was not lost on several members who approved of the design aesthetics but were still uneasy with the size.
“I like the building so-so,” said councilman Dan Kibbie. “It’s massive. The noise I think is going to a huge problem. We need to come up with a plan for that. There are so many unanswered questions here, and I feel like I’m being rushed.”
Foote’s plan would move the historic Staley-Rouse House to a prominent spot on the corner of 5th Avenue and Main Street, highlighting its unique architectural features in a public courtyard including Foote’s Rest and four more original Frisco buildings. The hotel would wrap around that area in an L-shape.
“This project is a great way for us to really connect a missing link on Main Street between 5th and 6th that tells pedestrians they should keep going and keep experiencing our street from Madison all the way down to 7th,” Elena Scott of Norris Design told council during the project presentation.
The historic courtyard was a popular idea, quelling concerns of preservation-minded residents who objected to an initial plan a year ago that would’ve moved the building to an off-site location.
After a series of tense public meetings in 2016, council agreed to sell the Staley House lot to Foote, later amending the deal to include the sale of the structure itself.
In December, the Frisco Planning Commission approved the project plan, which grew out of three public hearings and a design meeting where citizens were invited to give input.
“I would implore you to please, please recognize what we are doing to preserve history by not building an eight-town-lot, square building and instead trying to mold what we have and work with town staff and the community to get to where we are now,” Foote told the council.
The historic overlay zoning, if approved on second reading, would permanently preserve a total of six structures, including the Staley House and Foote’s Rest, each more than 100 years old. In exchange, the project would receive code waivers for setbacks, façade length and roof pitches.
“The applicant is willing to preserve a significant amount of land on this property as a historic overlay,” mayor Gary Wilkinson said. “If this was a blank canvas … you would wipe out the sweet shop — scrape it. … We gain so much more this way, so that’s the way I look at it.”
But with the preservation issue largely settled, concerns over Main Street’s growing parking problems came to the fore. For months, council members, planning commissioners and business owners have been calling for an overhaul of the town code’s outdated parking requirements.
Foote’s project meets code for parking, in part by using a vehicle lift system in its underground garage. Still, some on council were skeptical that there would be adequate parking for scores of employees, hotel guests and visitors to the development.
“Where are these employees going to park?” councilwoman Kim Cancelosi asked. “All of these people have to park somewhere, and it’s going to start going into our residential neighborhoods … so I think parking is not resolved.”
Mayor pro-tem Hunter Mortensen, while concerned with parking and the building’s height, said Foote shouldn’t be penalized for outdated elements of the code.
“I think most of the issues brought up aren’t associated with just this project. They’re town-wide issues,” he said. “There’s going to be development on this lot some time in our future, and they’re all going to come with parking issues, noise issues and employee housing issues.”
More than two dozen people filled the gallery of the council chambers Tuesday night, but unlike the rancorous, standing-room meetings in 2016, there was little public comment. None opposed the project outright.
“At our last planning commission meeting, the room was full but we had no comments at all, which usually means you’re moving in the right direction,” Scott said.
Sam Eden, who lives across the street from the site, said he liked the external design but was concerned about height, parking and especially noise.
“I have great concerns about having a bar on the street level and especially on the roof,” he said. “That noise is going to echo everywhere.”
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