Published: Jan 26, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Jan 26, 2013 02:15 PM
CHAPEL HILL - The Town Council and residents raised multiple questions last week about the proposed redevelopment of a Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard apartment complex.
Trinitas Ventures wants to raze three two-story apartment buildings at the Central Park Apartments, 602 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., and replace them with one large building that rises from four to six stories as it descends the hill.
Bicycle Apartments at Central Park would have 194 student-oriented units with 608 fully furnished bedrooms renting for $600 to $737 each, developer Travis Vencel said. Limited parking and increased bicycle storage would encourage residents to walk, bike or take the bus, he said.
If approved, it would triple the number of residents. It also would bring a five-fold increase in property values and tax payments, Vencel said Wednesday.
“This sets a new standard for student housing,” he said. “It’s a chance for the town to step up and do what it’s been talking about for years.”
The town and residents still have concerns, including why other Trinitas properties get negative online reviews.
Council member Jim Ward said he read about an “Animal House” atmosphere, where residents didn’t feel safe, couldn’t study and lived with drug activity and parties.
Vencel suggested some reviewers may be young renters who don’t like the rules, or the consequences.
Screening, minimal porches and on-site security and management would protect neighbors, he said. The rental application also outlines rules for drug use, alcohol, smoking, firearms and other substances. It restricts parking and sets quiet hours of 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Vencel needs the Town Council to approve a rezoning and special-use permit. He is seeking fewer parking spaces, a slightly taller building and permission for crews to work in the stream conservation zone covering half the 9.1-acre site.
Most of the 25 residents who spoke said the project doesn’t protect neighbors or meet housing needs.
Elisabeth Benfey and Janet Smith, with the Franklin-Rosemary Residents for Action neighborhood group, said the project is too dense, too tall and too close to existing neighborhoods.
The community first needs to talk about how to develop the area, protect the neighborhoods from noise, trash and traffic, and provide student, workforce and affordable-housing options, many speakers said.
A smaller group of residents, students and business representatives supported the plan’s focus on student housing, economic vitality and meeting the town’s 2020 Plan goals.
Meg McGurk, executive director of the ^Downtown Partnership, said it would help downtown businesses and “further the goal of a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly downtown.”
Ward suggested the developer consider a bigger commitment to Chapel Hill Transit than the proffered $20,000 in bus stop, traffic and crosswalk improvements.
“This is a groundbreaking project, and you can pave the way,” Ward said. “This project calls for an ongoing contribution to part of the glue that’s going to hold this project together, and that’s Chapel Hill Transit.”
Ward and others also suggested Vencel pay more than the $90,000 offered to the town’s affordable housing fund.