Thursday, June 21, 2012

City Council votes 6-2 in favor of apartment-complex plan at Hall Avenue and Cleveland Street

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Apartment Plans Move Forward
By Joel Walsh

FAYETTEVILLE -- FAYETTEVILLE — Residents can expect construction to begin next year on a much-debated apartment complex near University of Arkansas dormitories and Leverett Elementary School.

Seth Mims, a partner with Springdale-based Specialized Real Estate Group, said Wednesday he hopes to have the development open in fall 2014.

City Council members approved zoning and development plans for Project Cleveland by a 6-2 vote after midnight Tuesday. The decision followed nearly five hours of comments from supporters and detractors of the 122-unit, 450-bedroom apartment complex.

Aldermen Adella Gray, Brenda Boudreaux, Matthew Petty, Justin Tennant, Bobby Ferrell and Sarah Lewis voted in favor of the apartment plans. Rhonda Adams and Mark Kinion opposed the measure.

Lewis, whose ward encompasses the project site at West Cleveland Street and North Hall Avenue, said residents’ concerns weighed on her decision. Surrounding homeowners have said the project’s size, proximity to homes and potential to increase traffic make it unsuitable for the area. More than 200 residents signed a petition opposing the project, and dozens more sent letters to city staff and commented at multiple public meetings.

“There’s a worry that people are losing something,” Lewis said. “There’s a fear there. I recognize that.”

She said she thought developers took residents’ concerns into account, however, by reducing the height of the building nearest to the homes. They also agreed to install “traffic-calming devices” and incorporate environmentally friendly drainage into plans.

“I’ve never seen a developer be so responsive,” Lewis said.

Bobby Ferrell, Ward 3 alderman, said he was impressed by Mims’ understanding of the city’s goals in its City Plan 2030. The plan encourages construction in developed areas and promotes pedestrian-friendly infrastructure.

Developers will be required to build a raised intersection at Cleveland and Hall, a raised crosswalk on Hall Avenue and a sidewalk on Cleveland Street from Garland Avenue to Razorback Road. A separated, 5-foot-wide bicycle lane is required further west on Cleveland, and heavy construction vehicles will be prohibited from using Hall Avenue north of the project site and Cleveland Street to the west.

Aldermen approved an amendment Tuesday restricting drivers leaving a 421-space parking garage on Hall Avenue to right turns only.

Kinion said he thought Project Cleveland was designed well, but he supported the neighborhood.

“The sense of community you have in a neighborhood is irreplaceable, and this is a neighborhood that has that sense of community,” he said.

Several people who spoke Tuesday in support of the project said the apartments will provide needed student housing options close to the university campus.

“I personally don’t have the luxury of having a car,” said Stefan Camacho, an international student. “The University of Arkansas is my home, and being able to live near campus is very beneficial to my grades and it allows me to socialize and meet more people.”

City staff must now approve construction plans before building can begin.

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