COLUMBIA — Plans for a six-story student apartment building west of MU got the go-ahead from the Columbia City Council on Monday night. The 103-apartment structure will house up to 354 people and will be built on the south side of Conley Avenue between Fifth and Sixth streets.
The City Council voted 7-0 in favor of the proposal to rezone the area from R-3, medium-density apartments, to PUD-90, which allows up to 90 dwellings per acre. The area now is the site of six houses, some of which are used for student housing.
City Planner Pat Zenner said at a June 6 meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission that the proposal represents the most intense development in a planned district ever proposed in Columbia.
Collegiate Housing Partners originally targeted the site of the Niedermeyer House for an apartment building, but public outcry prompted it to look for property elsewhere.
The council did not approve building permits for the project, known as The Residences at Fifth and Conley. Permits will not be issued until an additional pedestrian impact analysis has been provided by the city's traffic engineer. Collegiate Housing Partners, the St. Louis-based company that will build the apartments, must either comply with the traffic recommendations or request a waiver from the council.
The Planning and Zoning Commission voted 7-2 on June 6 to recommend the council approve the project, so long as developers agreed to alter some of their requests for exceptions to city building codes. Collegiate Housing Partners sent a statement outlining their plans to Zenner on June 10.
The City Council reviewed the plans and approved the project Monday with a few amendments.
One the primary concerns regarding the location of the project was the availability of parking for residents as well as the burden the added traffic would place on already existing parking options.
Initially, Collegiate Housing Partners had proposed building at least 115 and as many as 134 spaces on-site. City codes normally would require 249 spaces, but planners have signed off on a plan to provide 165, which includes up to 50 spots Collegiate would lease from the city at the Fifth and Walnut parking garage.
Developers originally sought a variance from city rules that would have required that its building be placed at least 25 feet back from property lines. Collegiate wanted no setbacks along Conley Avenue and Fourth and Fifth streets and a 4-foot setback at the rear of the building.
However, Collegiate agreed to a plan with the city to have a zero-foot setback on Conley Avenue, a one-foot setback on Fourth Street, a 4-foot setback on Fifth Street and a 5-foot setback on the rear of the building. The City Council approved this plan on Monday night.
City staff want the setbacks in order promote pedestrian safety in the area, although no plans were proposed at the meeting.
Along with the apartment building, a proposed 10-foot sidewalk will be built on Fifth Street, with a 6-foot sidewalk along Conley Avenue and 5-foot sidewalk along Fourth Street, according to plans presented to the city by developers.
Fifteen percent of a property designated PUD-90 must be reserved for landscaping and/or open space. However, the council approved a plan which allow developers to have 9 percent landscaping/open space rather than the required 15 percent.
What did the public have to say?
Pat Fowler voiced her support for the development and said the building is in the right location, with easy walking distances to MU and Mark Twain Dining Hall.
Fowler said the fact that the building will have an unloading zone in the building will be good because it won't cause street congestion when students are moving in and out of the apartments.
What did the council have to say?
All council members in attendance expressed support for the project. Second Ward Councilman Michael Trapp said he was really proud of the development because of its location and because it will be "the densest development in the history of Columbia."
Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala said the City Council is often presented with new housing development plans and are forced to ask when the student housing demand bubble is going to burst.
"When asked, developers always say, 'but our (development) is better and in a better place,'" Skala said. "In this case, that is true."
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