Student Housing: Developers offer alternative plan for student apartment complex

BY DAVID YOUNG for Coloradoan

The lights went up Tuesday night on round two of a controversial student housing project that has already been shot down once by the Fort Collins Planning and Zoning Board.

Last month, the board denied plans for a proposed 624-bed apartment project on the southwest corner of Centre Avenue and Rolland Moore Drive called The Grove. The board deemed entrances and their relation to adjoining streets did not meet standards and the project did not meet the definition of a block in terms of surrounding roadways.

On Tuesday evening, the project’s North Carolina-based developer, Campus Crest, revealed it intends to start from scratch, despite still having two appeals out on the board’s decision to City Council. The developers announced their decision at a planning department neighborhood information meeting at Plymouth Congregational Church, 916 W. Prospect Road.

About 60 residents came out to ask questions of the new project, which is similar to the old project and is scheduled to be filed today. Linda Ripley, with Vaught Frye Ripley Designs, outlined changes to the new project, which include expanding from 23 acres to 27 acres and dropping the facility from 624 beds to 612 beds.

Other changes included shifting buildings so they do not encroach on wetlands and altering the block standard to use a private street rather than a public way to appease the city’s standards. All of the project’s buildings have been moved onto streets in the new plan, and there is a decentralized trash plan rather than a centralized one as called for in the first plan.

After nearly two hours of questions from the audience, primarily composed of residents who live in the area, ranging from drainage concerns to who would be able to rent the units, the crowd cut to the core issue: how the project will impact the community long term.

Since the project’s introduction, there has been a strong outcry from those who live near the proposed project regarding topics ranging from building standards to flooding issues. Campus Crest representatives have always maintained they are committed to building a quality place to live that is congruent with the city’s standards.

On Tuesday evening, residents reiterated their displeasure with Campus Crest as they criticized everything from the facade of the units to its reputation in other communities, including Greeley, for lack of upkeep.

The questions prompted Campus Crest founding partners Michael Hartnett and Ted Rollins, who attended the meeting, to address the concerns.

Hartnett said they are not absentee landlords and are active in maintaining and improving their properties once they are completed. With 27 properties across the country, Hartnett said there have been cases of expanding too quickly that resulted in bad press for Campus Crest, but he assured those issues have been fixed.

“We do not want to be known as the party place to live,” said Hartnett, who added following the meeting that they prefer the second plan over the first one.

Many in attendance were confused as to why Campus Crest moved forward with a new project while still appealing its former project.

“I’m really confused why there are two separate developments that are basically the same development … is it the less of two evils,” asked Elizabeth Nance, who has attended all of the Campus Crest meetings and lives off Juniper Lane north of the proposed development. “It’s death by 1,000 meetings.”

Steve Olt, project planner with the city, said legally Campus Crest is permitted to file another project, while two appeals are in limbo. On Dec. 21, City Council will hear an appeal filed by residents regarding the approval of the overall development plan and two approved modifications. Campus Crest has a yet-to-be-scheduled appeal with City Council regarding the denial of the first plan.

Following the meeting, Hartnett said they opted to file a new proposal in order to keep the momentum going. He said there are “no tricks” involved, rather, they’re just ensuring there is at least one active project.

Chase Eckerdt, associated director of community affairs at CSU, attended the meeting on behalf of the university and said he found the project affordable and appealing. At one point during the meeting, he said as a student that he would want to live there.

Eckerdt said the Associated Students of Colorado State University has not taken a position on the project yet but expects that it will by the end of January.

“We are keenly aware and keeping an eye on (it),” Eckerdt said.


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