Developers make changes in proposed Elm Street high-rise near MU

Wednesday, November 27, 2013 | 1:13 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — New York-based developer Park 7 Group continues to pursue a building permit for a high-rise apartment complex on the north edge of MU but has modified some details of its plan.

Columbia attorney Robert Hollis, who is representing Park 7 Group in discussions with the city, said the building design now includes fewer four-room apartments and more single and studio apartments.

Hollis said the new mix required an additional floor to house the same number of beds. Original plans called for a 24-story tower.

Bengals Bar & Grill and Casablanca Mediterranean Grill are on the lot Park 7 is eyeing, which is zoned C-2 as is much of downtown. Hollis said the developer hasn't purchased the property yet, but he is seeking assurance from the city's legal staff that the project will be exempt from any zoning changes put in place before the high-rise is completed.

Columbia's zoning rules, particularly those for downtown, are about to be reviewed. The city is negotiating with a consultant to make recommendations for changing the code, according to previous reporting by the Missourian. The entire process is expected to take 18 to 24 months.

Hollis said a significant investment would be lost if the development becomes incompatible with new rules.

Doug Wheeler of the city Planning and Zoning Commission said C-2 zoning is an "open" zoning classification, meaning the plans don't need to go before the commission or City Council.

"That's a C-2 zoned piece of property," Wheeler said. "What they're requesting is an allowed use under C-2 zoning. We have many open zoning classifications, and if what you're doing complies with that, it doesn't come to P and Z."

The architectural fees are approximately $1.5 million even before Park 7 can apply for a building permit, Hollis said. "If you get to the point of applying for a permit, and one of the due diligence items isn't done on the list and you can't get a permit, that's a large chunk of change."

The latest plans call for four stories of internal parking and commercial use on the ground floor, Hollis said. He estimated that the high-rise would hold approximately 700 beds in 295 apartments and parking would accommodate about half of the  residents.

For such a large project, little about its potential impact is known because Park 7 is waiting on an agreement with the city before moving ahead.

Carrie Gartner, executive director of the Downtown Community Improvement District, said the District deals mostly with public land and its board doesn't vote to support privately built projects.

"We support general guidelines," Gartner said. "We deal more with public space than private space. But whether something has commercial space on the first floor impacts the public space, and internal parking impacts the public space, too."

Supervising editor is John Schneller.

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