COLUMBIA — The City Council approved the rezoning of several lots on Locust Street to accommodate more downtown student apartments on Monday.
The property, owned by 10th and Locust LLC, is on the south side of Locust Street between Hitt and Waugh streets. The developers plan to construct a building with retail space on the first floor and apartments above. College students will be their primary market.
The group that owns 10th and Locust, led by brothers Jonathan and Nathan Odle, has built or is building new apartments at Tenth and Locust streets, at Tenth and Elm streets and at College Avenue and Walnut Street.
The Planning and Zoning Commission recommended the council approve the Locust Street request on Feb. 9. Commissioner Jeff Barrow said the proposed uses are a logical extension of downtown.
"I think it's smart to have commercial and apartments on the same property," Barrow said. "That location is where downtown Columbia is expanding. They're revitalizing old neighborhoods."
The rezoning approval allows the developer to build up to 150 apartments in a building that cannot be more than 80 feet tall. Craig Van Matre, a lawyer who represents 10th and Locust, said he doesn't think the developer would be able to fit that many apartments into the building.
Van Matre said construction would begin this summer if final plans are approved.
"The demand for downtown living is getting higher every day," he said. "More people want to live downtown every day. You can live here, and you don't have to drive around. Everything is here at your fingertips, in walking distance, including campus."
One of the biggest concerns of the future apartment and retail space is the lack of parking. A waiver that was a part of the request, however, says the developer does not have to create on-site parking.
"If every business downtown was required to have on-site parking, downtown would not be walkable," Barrow said. "I think it should have the same treatment as other property."
Van Matre said students would have easy access to their cars even if they can't park them downtown.
"They're going to have a shuttle bus for those tenants who have a car parked somewhere on campus to take them from the apartment to the parking area," Van Matre said.
Parents of students at nearby Lee Elementary raised questions about traffic at the the council's Monday meeting. They were concerned about the danger added by the increase of college students in the area, especially tenants who do have cars and park near the apartment.
Van Matre said the developers expect only 25 percent of future tenants to own cars.
"We need to make sure that the development meets the needs and takes into consideration Lee (Elementary) and the existing traffic problems they have," Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe said at the meeting. "I think the developer is very interested in being supportive of Lee (Elementary) with the traffic."
"It meets all the criteria for smart growth," Mayor Bob McDavid said.
The rezoning was approved with the condition that retailers would be limited to the first, or ground, floor. They also cannot house other businesses or activities not permitted under Section 29-15 of the City's Zoning Ordinances, according to a report to the council from the Columbia Community Development Department.
"They're hoping to attract small restaurants or something that would cater to students," Van Matre said.
Another potential problem is the size of the sidewalk along the development. The Columbia Public Works Department has indicated the desire, however, to construct a 10-foot sidewalk, consistent with the city's downtown sidewalk specifications, the report stated.
In other action, the council approved:
- Rezoning of two acres of land on the east side of Rock Quarry Road, near where it intersects with Grindstone Parkway, to planned unit development. The land was previously zoned for agricultural purposes. The new zoning does not allow for development exceeding 11.3 dwelling units per acre. The developer aims to create 20 single-family townhomes on the land.
- Revising the statement of intent for permitted uses for multiple lots in the Crosscreek Center development, east of U.S. 63. This change allows for hotels and motels to be built on these lots. Houston-based Asset Plus owns the property and plans to develop a hotel and student apartments at the Crosscreek property.
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