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Seal of approval: Downtown pizza restaurant gets Heritage Commission's decision overturned
The owners of Urban Crust will get to keep their rooftop awning after the Plano City Council overruled a decision by the city's Heritage Commission.
The issue was decided Monday night when the council unanimously approved an appeal filed by Nathan and Bonnie Shea, owners of the Downtown Plano pizza restaurant. The awning was custom made for the restaurant, but met resistance when the Sheas didn't seek the commission's approval prior to its installation. A subsequent request for approval was denied.
Nathan said a previous awning was approved by the Heritage Commission several years ago, and the new covering is simply a replacement for the older, weather-beaten awning. Since the new awning had different dimensions, including standing 2 feet taller and having thicker polls, it required re-approval, said Phyllis Jarrell, the city's planning director.
"The Heritage Commission reviewed the applicant's request for the new awning cover and ultimately denied the [certificate of appropriateness] request citing the patio cover's height, mass and invisibility," Jarrell said.
After not receiving the required certificate of appropriateness, the Sheas were forced to either scrap plans for the awning, while incurring a significant financial loss, or get the council's approval. The restaurant will now be able to utilize the retractable covering, which was installed in May, without fear of running afoul of the city's code enforcement division.
"We were losing a lot of revenue," Nathan said. "We have so many 95-plus degree days where people don't want to go out on the patio, as well as days where it rains or when it is too cold. We are going to be able to use this patio year-round."
Prior to the vote, City Councilman Lee Dunlap, an architect by profession, said by the Sheas' admission they had been in front of the commission more than a half dozen times, so they should have known the procedures.
"Had I been on the commission at the time I probably would have voted against the first [awning]," Dunlap said. "... However, the design that was presented to us originally ... was approved by the commission ... and in this particular case, I actually like the look better of the [new one]."
Councilman Pat Miner agreed, saying he didn't see how a two-foot height difference made a difference to people who were looking up at the patio from street level.
"I think it is much better in appearance than the previous one," Miner said.
Now that the awning issue is behind them, the Sheas can focus on their newest restaurant project, Urban Rio, which opened over the summer. The Sheas own multiple buildings in downtown, but no future restaurants are planned, Nathan said, citing the need for a "break."
Even with the friction the couple ran into in front of the Heritage Commission, Nathan said he and his wife's support and vision for Downtown Plano remains as strong as ever.
"My wife had a passion for Downtown Plano since she loved the area," Nathan said. "Urban Crust has been here for about three-and-a-half years, but we bought the building about two years prior to that. Since that time we have seen unbelievable change. If you drive down the street on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night you can't find a parking place and people are walking all over downtown. Five years ago you couldn't find anyone downtown after 5 p.m."
Urban Crust is located at 1006 E. 15th St., while Urban Rio is located at 1000 14th St.