Planners advance rezoning for housing complex between Duncan and Hill avenues

A sign notifying residents of a potential rezoning stands outside the Summit Terrace apartments at the southwest corner of Hill Avenue and Treadwell Street on Monday, April 22, 2024. (Flyer photo)

The Planning Commission has approved a rezoning request that could potentially lead to a full city block being leveled and replaced with a new housing complex.

Commissioners on Monday voted 8-1 to recommend rezoning 2.9 acres at Hill Avenue and Treadwell Street. The request will now go to the City Council for final consideration.

The land includes the full block east of Duncan, south of Treadwell, west of Hill Avenue and north of Putman Street. It’s currently home to the 40-unit Summit Terrace complex, a smaller 6-unit apartment building, a duplex, a single-family home, and a largely undeveloped lot with off-site parking. A private alleyway runs through the middle of the block.

If approved, the property would be rezoned from a residential multi-family zone allowing up to 40 units an acre to one called main street center. Both districts allow for five-story apartment complexes, but main Street center allows buildings up to seven stories in places on the property that are farther than 15 feet from the right-of-way. The current zoning allows for up to 116 dwelling units on the land, whereas main street center has no density limits.

The proposed district also allows a wide variety of other uses, but the applicants have offered a formal Bill of Assurance that would prohibit liquor stores, small-scale production and transportation services from operating on the property.

Representatives from St. Louis developer Subtext and Fayetteville architecture firm Modus Studio presented the request to the commission.

Documents submitted to the city indicate the plan is to construct one of the developers’ VERVE complexes. The firm’s website shows five existing VERVE projects ranging from 162-745 beds in New Jersey, Indiana, Missouri, Idaho and Ohio. Two others are in the works in West Lafayette, Ind. (751 beds) and Madison, Wis. (536 beds), according to the website.

The complex would sit across the street from the five-story Atmosphere apartments to the north, the three-story Eco Modern Flats complex to the east, and the two-story Oakwood Place apartments to the south. The five-story Cardinal at West Center student complex and the two-story Harmon Place apartments sit directly northwest of the property.

“We see this as being a natural extension of providing housing where it’s needed most,” said Chris Baribeau, principal architect of Modus Studio.

Baribeau presented a conceptual perspective rendering of the site, set next to the existing complexes in the neighborhood. He said the image wasn’t intended to show the plan for the exterior design of the building, but rather serve as a visible example of how the project’s taller stories would likely be built toward the center of the building.

A conceptual perspective drawing shows what a new housing complex (top center) might look like just north of the Atmosphere and Cardinal student apartments on Duncan Avenue in Fayetteville. (Modus Studio/City of Fayetteville)

Kathryn Cook, who lives in one of the apartments on the property, said it would be the second time her home has been removed and replaced with a housing complex.

“This development is going to destroy an entire block of affordable rental housing,” said Cook in a letter to the city. “Furthermore, we will all be left homeless because there is no rent in this town that’s as affordable as ours and we’re still fighting to make ends meet.”

While commissioners admitted the project could potentially remove 54 existing homes, the location, which is a quarter mile from the University of Arkansas campus, is the right place for adding hundreds of more bedrooms.

“My heart goes out to the people who are going to lose their homes, but when I look at the big picture, this is the part of town for this type of development,” said commissioner Matthew Cabe.

Mary Madden agreed, and said with Razorback Transit busses already making regular stops at the property, many of the residents who rent there could potentially live car-free.

With the original district’s allowance for high-density apartment construction, other commissioners said it seems clear that the land will inevitably become home to an apartment complex with or without the rezoning.

“I feel for the residents quite a bit, and it’s unfortunate that they’re in a situation that probably feels powerless,” said commissioner Nick Castin. “But the current zoning already allows for an intense use, so this rezoning isn’t what is going to cause these people to lose their homes.”

Nick Werner was the only commissioner to vote against the recommendation. Werner said that while both zonings allow redevelopment that could potentially result in the loss of the existing homes, he felt the original district is more likely to maintain affordability in housing. He said the main street center zoning, with its mixed-use potential, could increase property values and rents, making units less affordable.

“I don’t think (main street center) appropriately balances the need for affordable housing versus newer development even if it is in line with our mixed-use goals for the city,” said Werner.

Correction: A previous version of this story mistakenly stated that Werner did not say why he voted against the rezoning. He did provide a brief explanation of his vote, which is now included above.

Project site map (Modus Studio/City of Fayetteville)