Published: Feb 26, 2012 02:00 AM
Modified: Feb 24, 2012 07:03 PM
Most residents and town leaders seem to agree that we don't want university students, at least not in great numbers, living in our established residential neighborhoods.
The prevailing attitude is that we are grateful for the presence of the university - without which there would be no Chapel Hill - and we love students, but we don't really want lots of them living next door to us. They tend to stay up late. They aren't always the quietest or neatest of neighbors, and as short-term renters they generally don't have the same stake in the neighborhood as do permanent residents.
Those concerns are what fueled the long-running concerns in Northside; the town even enacted a development moratorium there while it tried to craft more effective measures to discourage student rental properties.
Yet the students have to live somewhere. There aren't nearly enough beds on campus. And it's in everybody's best interest to have them living within walking distance of campus rather than commuting in from elsewhere. Walkability is one of the cardinal virtues we embrace whenever we talk about development.
That's one of the reasons Chapel Hill in recent years has emphasized the benefits of putting taller, more densely populated buildings in the downtown area. The idea is to put a lot of people within easy walking distance of downtown, which adds life and vitality to the business district and prevents urban sprawl. The mantra is, "Build up, not out."
You can hardly miss the tangible evidence of that recent emphasis: It's there in the Greenbridge buildings, and in the under-construction 140 West project.
Those two factors - the need for student housing near campus but not in established neighborhoods, and the philosophy of building up instead of out - are behind the proposed Trinitas apartment complex off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
The company (like the project, called Trinitas) specializes in building student apartments near college campuses, thereby helping ease the infiltration of students into residential neighborhoods. The project's concept plan features four seven-story buildings with 319 one- to four-bedroom apartments for students.
The Trinitas developers might have imagined they were giving us what we want: Student housing that would help relieve the pressure on neighborhoods like Northside, and taller, denser buildings like the ones the town championed with Greenbridge and 140 West.
The Town Council's response to the concept plan? Too tall, and too dense.
You might forgive Trinitas for being a bit perplexed.
For developers, Chapel Hill must be a moving target; we have a perplexing habit of signaling that we want certain things, only to spurn projects that present those things.
Monday's meeting was just the concept plan review. The Trinitas folks will now take the input and, presumably, try to tweak the project in order to give us what we want - if they can figure out what that is.
All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be published, broadcast or redistributed in any manner.