ARLINGTON -- Downtown business leaders are getting behind a proposed five-story, high-density apartment complex that would replace more than 100 aging apartments near the University of Texas at Arlington.
On Wednesday, the Downtown Arlington Management Corp. board of directors voted to support a rezoning request for the proposed $35 million Center Court redevelopment, which is up for final City Council approval Tuesday night.
To make way for its 335-unit complex and parking garage, Lev Investments plans to tear down the Appleton Square Apartments and Center Court Apartments, both built in the 1960s, as well as the Center Oaks Apartments and a single-family home on the east side of the university.
Downtown supporters say that they are thrilled with the recent influx of restaurants but that new housing is needed to attract other types of businesses where people can work and shop.
"It's the kind of thing we need to kick off residential redevelopment downtown," said Bob Johnson, chairman of the Downtown Arlington Management Corp. board.
"It would be a big upgrade from what is on the ground there now."
The council gave initial approval Jan. 3 to the company's rezoning request for the land between Center and Mesquite streets and Mitchell and Hosack streets.
The development would be near UTA's new College Park District, which includes a $78 million special-events center, green space and a mixed-use development with housing for 500 students. The proposed complex is aimed more at university employees and professionals than undergraduates, representative Stephen Drenner told Downtown Arlington Management board members.
Apartments are expected to range from 510-square-foot efficiency units to 930-square-foot two-bedroom units, according to a staff report. The complex is also expected to feature a 5,200-square-foot clubhouse, rooftop patio, outdoor fireplace and bicycle rentals, according to a city staff report. The ground floor could also be converted into retail space, which would make the complex the type of mixed-use development that city leaders have sought downtown for years, Drenner said.
UTA Vice President John Hall, who sits on the downtown board, said the complex will offer a housing alternative for faculty, staff and graduate students and may inspire more redevelopment east of Center and north of Mitchell.
"That is also an area where there are tired apartments that have served their useful life and need to go away and be redeveloped," Hall said.
During public meetings on the proposed project last month, some residents and council members raised concerns about the number of parking spaces.
According to plans, the parking garage and a small surface lot would offer 476 spaces, a number supported by a parking study.
A similar complex elsewhere in town would have to have at least 599 spaces, Community Development and Planning Director Jim Parajon told council members, but fewer spaces were deemed necessary because of the proximity to the university.
'The risk is ours'
As part of its initial approval, the council requires the company to conduct a vehicle count for the first five years to ensure that parking is adequate. If it isn't, the complex can keep some units empty, offer valet parking or buy additional land for more parking, Drenner said.
"The risk is ours, that we can demonstrate the parking is sufficient for the project," he said.
If the project is approved, the existing apartments and single-family home would be razed, and the company would help tenants relocate, Drenner said.
Construction is expected to take two years.
Council member Sheri Capehart voted against the request Jan. 3 after learning that the developer was considering asking for a significant tax break.
Although the developer has not officially made that request, it has been exploring with city staff the possibility of a 90 percent abatement on the increased property value for 10 years, Economic Development Manager Bruce Payne told council members this month.
Susan Schrock, 817-709-7578