Council delays decision on new housing project near university

The Summit Terrace apartments on Treadwell Street are shown in this photo taken on Monday, April 22, 2024 (Flyer photo/Todd Gill)

FAYETTEVILLE — It will be at least another two weeks before a decision is made on a rezoning request that could lead to a full city block being leveled and replaced with a new housing complex.

The City Council on Tuesday left the request on its first reading to allow more time to think about the proposal.

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, which is about a quarter mile from the University of Arkansas campus.

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.

An architect for the project said the plan is to keep the building at five stories around the perimiter, but to add extra levels in the middle to allow for an interior parking structure.

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.

» See more information about the project in our April 23 story

An early 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)

During public comment on Tuesday, seven people spoke against the request, many who live in housing on the subject property and who were concerned about where they would live or if they could afford to live anywhere else in town if their homes are sold and replaced with a new apartment complex.

One of those people was Kathryn Cook, who lives in one of the apartments on the property.

“This development is going to destroy an entire block of affordable rental housing,” said Cook in a previous 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.”

Two other people who spoke said the city needs to change its outdated zoning districts to incentivize more affordable housing construction around town.

Councilmember Scott Berna said it’s a tough decision, considering the potential displacement of the current residents. However, Berna said the owner of Summit Terrace complex sent an email to the council explaining that they are ready to sell their property, which Berna said is a signal that redevelopment of the property is imminent, with or without the rezoning that would allow an interior parking deck.

Project site map (Modus Studio/City of Fayetteville)

Councilmember Bob Stafford said he knows the block will likely be redeveloped, but he hoped the item could be left on the first reading to give him more time to consider the compatibility of the request. Teresa Turk agreed and said she’d like some clarification about how many more units could be built on the property with the requested zoning versus the existing district.

Councilmember Mike Wiederkehr said he’s not enthralled with student housing in general, but it’s what the city needs and the subject property is in an appropriate location for adding as much of it as possible. He said if people are going to be displaced by an eventual redevelopment of the property, he’d rather the density be increased to get as much housing as the city can.

Mayor Lioneld Jordan said Fayetteville needs to add 1,000 units of housing per year to keep up with the city’s growth, and while it’s certainly a tough decision, the council should get used to making tough decisions because there are many large housing developments coming down the pike.

The council’s discussion will continue on June 4.