Arlington City Council rejects apartment complex to serve UTA students

Posted Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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The City Council rejected a proposed downtown four-story apartment complex Tuesday after residents expressed concerns that its size, as well as the number of apartments it would have, would harm the neighborhood.

The council voted 6-3 to deny Greystar Student Living’s plans for the 231-unit Arlington Lofts at 815 W. Abram St., which would have been marketed to students at the fast-growing University of Texas at Arlington.

Greystar was planning a mix of one-. two-, three- and four-bedroom units with a total of 692 beds as well as a six-story parking garage. The development would have replaced the two-story, 120-unit Catalina Apartments, built in 1969.

Councilwoman Sheri Capehart said she was not comfortable with the size of the garage and the increased density for the site. The property is zoned for 22 apartment units per acre, whereas Arlington Lofts planned 54 per acre — which is allowed under downtown zoning.

“You are basically doubling the density. That is a bit of concern for me,” Capehart said.

Residents in opposition raised concerns about issues ranging from density to fears that the apartments would eventually change from student housing to a traditional apartment complex.

Burt Grant, who owns a salon on Abram, was among six residents who spoke in opposition. Grant’s salon is in a 109-year-old two-story home near the planned complex.

“We are going to look like a dollhouse sitting there,” Grant said.

Besides the proposed density, which he called “kind of frightening,” Grant said he was disappointed that the modern-looking development didn’t incorporate architectural features more fitting with the historical feel of other properties on Abram.

Mayor Robert Cluck and council members Lana Wolff and Michael Glaspie voted in favor of the project. Capehart and council members Charlie Parker, Robert Rivera, Kathryn Wilemon, Robert Shepard and Jimmy Bennett voted in opposition.

The Planning and Zoning Commission approved the project this month after hearing the same concerns from the neighborhood.

Lance Hanna, Greystar’s managing director of development for student living, said the project was designed for college students, not families.

Greystar operates 14 student housing communities at about a dozen universities nationwide, Hanna said. UT Arlington, which has 33,000 students, was chosen because of its strong enrollment growth, he said.

The fully furnished units would have had full kitchens and bathrooms for each bedroom and amenities that college students have told the developer they want, including a resort-style pool, fitness center, cyber cafe and a courtyard with quiet areas for study, Hanna said.

The existing 45-year-old apartment complex is appraised at $3.4 million, Hanna told the council.

“What we are proposing to build will have a 12-fold increase in assessed value,” Hanna said.

Arlington Lofts, which Hanna said did not have financing yet, would have been significantly larger than two other privately developed student housing projects: the Midtown Urban Student Living and Campus Edge apartments that have opened on UTA Boulevard in recent years.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Susan Schrock, 817-390-7639 Twitter: @susanschrock

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