The City Council approved a $20 million apartment complex for downtown Tuesday although some council members said they thought it appeared too similar to student housing built or approved for construction around the University of Texas at Arlington in recent years.
After a public hearing Tuesday night, the council voted 7-1 to give preliminary approval to the 135-unit complex on East Border Street near the downtown post office. The complex, currently called 404 Border, would be marketed to young professionals, downtown workers and graduate students, faculty and staff at nearby UT Arlington.
Councilman Charlie Parker said the proposed brick and stucco multistory complex appears too much like the surrounding College Park, the privately owned Campus Edge and Midtown Urban Student Living, apartments and the recently approved Arlington Lofts and Sapphire Inspired Living complex.
“My tolerance for doing the same thing over and over again is blemished because my district is the north district and we have 20,000 apartment doorknobs and they are the same,” Parker said. “If we don’t strive for originality … something that is unique for our city each time we have one of those high-end projects, then I think we are destined to do the same things.”
404 Border is being co-developed by Dodson Development of Arlington and Carleton Residential Properties. The complex, where the average monthly lease will be $1,136, is expected to have features such as private garages, balconies, a resort pool and outdoor entertainment area.
‘A great-looking project’
After being shown a chart comparing drawings of 404 Border and four student housing projects, Councilwoman Sheri Capehart said “the similarities really do trouble me” and she asked Dodson whether something could be done to make the complex stand out.
Dodson, who said his architects had already made several changes in the past three weeks at the suggestion of city staff and neighborhood, said he didn’t feel that his project, described as upscale urban living, would be confused with student housing.
“I don’t think that is a good way to compare and contrast different projects,” Dodson said. “There is always something different you can do. We feel like we’ve designed a great-looking project.”
Mayor Robert Cluck was absent. Parker voted in opposition.
Councilman Robert Rivera said other council members’ push for architectural changes when Dodson already exceeds downtown requirements was unfair.
“Your investment and interest in downtown is proven,” Rivera said. “Probably over the last 10 years, no one in the city has been more influential in developing our downtown, I would say, than you.”
Dodson’s other downtown redevelopment projects include Block 300 on East Abram Street, which includes restaurants such as Hooligan’s Pub, Flying Fish and Twisted Root Burger, as well as the Capital Bar, which recently closed.
“We truly believe the next thing downtown Arlington needs is residential,” Dodson said.
Approved with stipulations
Past studies and downtown stakeholders have agreed.
The area has numerous offices, restaurants, bars and entertainment venues but lacks market-rate multifamily housing, except for complexes targeting undergrads at the rapidly growing UT Arlington, that would keep people in the heart of the city after regular business hours, stakeholders have said.
“The retailer/restaurant type of people say their lunch crowd is decent but they have no crowd at night,” Councilman Robert Shepard said. “If we are going to expect for downtown to redevelop, we are going to have to have a residential component down here so those businesses can survive.”
On Feb. 19, the Arlington Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval of the project with some stipulations, which included working with the Heart of Arlington Neighborhood Association and making improvements to landscaping and architectural details.
The developers bought six parcels to assemble the 2.88-acre site for the complex. Three existing will be torn down. Construction could begin this summer and be completed within a year, Dodson said.
Only one person, resident Richard Weber, spoke in opposition to the project.
Weber raised concerns about the setbacks of the buildings from the road and a perceived parking shortage. More than 10 percent of the proposed units don’t have dedicated parking if on-street parking is taken out of the equation, Weber said.
“I just don’t understand why you have standards. Here again we have another high-density multifamily apartment complex and the standards get waived,” Weber said.
The Arlington school district submitted a letter opposing the complex because of overcrowding at three schools that would be affected — Berry Elementary, Carter Junior High and Arlington High School.