COLUMBIA — Developers Nathan and Jonathan Odle are at it again. They have applied to have the area along North College Avenue and between East Ash and East Walnut streets rezoned to allow for building around 100 apartments.
College and Walnut, LLC, which the Odles created in September, bought up properties at 1211, 1213, 1215 E. Walnut St. and 113 College Ave.
If the rezoning is approved, the brothers plan to construct several apartment buildings that also would include 5,000 square feet for a commercial tenant, City Planner Steve MacIntyre said. The apartments would include two- and four-bedroom apartments, he said.
The multi-story apartment buildings would cover the whole west side of North College Avenue between Walnut and Ash, MacIntyre said. The northwest corner of East Walnut Street and North College Avenue would have a commercial property, and the area next to East Ash Street would have a parking lot with about 120 spaces, MacIntyre said.
Rezoning the property from residential, R-3, which allows for medium-density apartments to commercial, C-2, would allow the Odles to increase the number of units they can build. C-2, or central business district, zoning carries no height limits, so the Odles will be able to build their properties four stories high. Commercial zoning also allows them to build all the way to the street rather than setting the buildings back, MacIntyre said.
The drawback to rezoning is that parking would be restricted. Boone County Family Resources, an agency that supports about 1,300 people with disabilities, have voiced some concerns about the parking situation. The Odles plan to apply for a conditional use permit to allow the parking lot.
“As we understand it, there is parking in the plan, and we are relieved about that," said Mark Satterwhite, director of Life and Work Connections for the resources agency.
Satterwhite also wondered whether the increase in residents and cars would be an obstacle to pedestrians, bicyclists, people who use wheelchairs and those who use nearby community gardens.
The Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture is on the other side of East Ash Street. Boone County Family Resources, which is planning to build an accessible urban garden, was originally concerned about the height of the buildings blocking out sunlight for the gardens. After looking into the matter, they are less worried, Satterwhite said.
The accessible urban garden is planned for vacant lots between North College Avenue and Saint Joseph Street and include accessible paths for wheelchairs and raised beds for everyone to use, regardless of ability, Satterwhite said.
“I would hope that if there are apartments close to our agency, the architect will take into consideration universal design so they are completely accessible,” he said.
The apartments would displace four homes, a grassy field and an existing parking lot, MacIntyre and city development services manager Patrick Zenner said.
Clare Connors, 71, a musician for the Stephens College Dance Department, for three years has rented part of one of the single-family homes that will be removed. She said one problem with developing in the area is that it is one of the neighborhood's few green spaces.
“It’s a shame to see this area shrinking,” Connors said.
Connors said she doesn't know how the “bike boulevard” on East Ash would work if 100 apartments are added. She also worries about traffic on East Walnut. “At 4 p.m. on Walnut it’s already bumper to bumper going east. It backs way up, up a couple of blocks."
If rezoning is approved and the Odles submit a site plan that meets all of the technical requirements, they could start building in 2011, MacIntyre said.
The development is in line with suggestions that emerged from the summer Downtown Planning Charrette, which explored opportunities to reinvigorate downtown, Zenner said.
“We see it as a good opportunity to utilize underutilized property adjacent to the downtown area,” Zenner said.
Zenner also said the city is trying to encourage “24-hour populations.” If there is a “vibrant” population downtown, the retail will follow. “We have a core of restaurants and businesses, but we could have more.”
Attorney Craig Van Matre is handling the Odles' request. The goal, he said, is to have the apartments open by fall 2012. He said the properties won’t be identical to the apartment buildings at Tenth and Locust streets but will be similar. The Odles completed one set of apartments there over the summer, and more are on the way.
The Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing on the proposal Jan. 6 at City Hall. Zenner and MacIntyre expect little opposition. The North Central Neighborhood Association has not weighed in, but MacIntyre expects members to be somewhat supportive.
Association President John Clark said its board has discussed the issue and is drafting a decision, which will be available in a few days.