Council approves remote parking lot permit for downtown apartment complex

The former Powerhouse Seafood & Grill property is shown in this photo taken on Wednesday, April 10, 2024. (Flyer photo)

The developers of a planned downtown apartment complex will receive a permit for an off-site parking lot after all.

The City Council on Tuesday voted 5-3 to approve an appeal of a previously denied conditional use permit to demolish the former Powerhouse Seafood & Grill restaurant and use the property as a parking area to help serve the new complex.

If built, the new complex would replace the quonset huts and four other buildings along Center Street at the Razorback Greenway crossing.

The six-story building from developers Trinitas Ventures would include its own 245-space parking lot, but with nearly 700 beds planned, city code requires at least another 194 spaces be made available for the building’s tenants.

The Planning Commission discussed the proposal in April, but voted 4-4 on the permit, effectively denying the application.

Commissioners who were against said the city has spent too many taxpayer dollars on the adjacent arts corridor site to allow a private parking lot to sit adjacent to it for the next five decades. Those in support said the project would allow more housing, and the former restaurant property would be very difficult to develop due to the overhead power lines and slope of the land.

It was the second location that Trinitas had proposed for the complex. The commission in December voted unanimously to deny a permit for an off-site parking lot about a mile away in south Fayetteville.

Powerhouse opened in the 1990s in a former electric power station on University Avenue, and became a Fayetteville staple until it was permanently closed in June 2023.

The restaurant property, which is owned by the Underwood family’s Tagon Corp., is 200 feet from the site of the planned complex, but includes a walking distance of about 675 feet using the area’s existing sidewalks. City code requires off-site lots to be within 600 feet of the buildings they serve, but does not specify whether the distance is directly walkable.

This map shows the proposed location of a planned student apartment complex on Center Street and the area where an off-site parking lot was proposed on University Avenue. (City of Fayetteville)

Todd Wendell with Trinitas said the plan for the Powerhouse site was to lease the land from the Underwoods for 55 years, and after demolishing the restaurant building, they’d construct a new parking lot with up to 220 spaces.

Councilmember Scott Berna said with all the power lines and utility easements on and above the property, along with the steep slopes that are present, it would be difficult to develop the land.

“The highest and best use of this property is probably a parking lot,” said Berna.

D’Andre Jones said the council recently declared a housing crisis, and this permit would allow a large housing project to move forward, so he would support the appeal.

Mike Wiederkehr said he’s heard concerns from people who believe that developers shouldn’t build any more bedrooms than they can provide onsite parking for, so he wouldn’t support the appeal.

Teresa Turk echoed some of the Planning Commission members’ concerns and said the city has just begun a project to remove a parking lot directly adjacent to this property, and wondered why the council should support this project to build a new one in the same area.

Holly Hertzberg said she’d support the appeal, partially because it would add more housing, but also because it would be an upgrade for the property, which currently serves as a makeshift parking lot without any of the landscaping that the developers are proposing.

This diagram shows a proposed off-site parking lot on the former Powerhouse Seafood & Grill property in downtown Fayetteville. (Blew & Associates P.A. via City of Fayetteville)