City Council greenlights rezoning for student housing 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 — The City Council has given final approval for the rezoning of a full city block near the University of Arkansas, clearing the path for the construction of a large-scale student-focused housing complex.

Council members on Tuesday voted 7-1 to approve a rezoning request for 2.9 acres between Duncan and Hill avenues. The block is 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.

The decision will change the property 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 new complex will 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.

Mitchell Korte with St. Louis developer Subtext said the complex could hold as many as 850 bedrooms, and will include a street-level pedestrian plaza with 2,000 square feet of public retail space for a coffee shop, bodega, or some other type of commercial business that will serve the complex and surrounding neighborhood.

A conceptual site plan shows the idea for a new student-focused housing complex on a full city block near the University of Arkansas campus in Fayetteville. (Modus Studio/Subtext)

Documents submitted to the city indicate the plan is to construct one of the developers’ VERVE complexes. The firm’s project 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. and Madison, Wis., according to the website.

Since it was first recommended by the Planning Commission in April, project has been met with opposition from area residents, some who live in the existing apartment buildings that will need to be demolished to make way for the new complex.

Will Kellstrom, an attorney representing Subtext, said Tuesday the developers have worked with the landlord of the residents who live at 98 S. Duncan Ave. that are on month-to-month leases, and who have expressed concerns about not having a place to live once the project breaks ground. Kellstrom said newly executed lease addendums will give those people some compensation for relocation, a minimum of six months notice before their lease is terminated, and will also allow them to terminate their own leases at any time with 30 days notice and get a refund of their pro-rated rent. Kellstrom said the remainder of the tenants there have leases that expire in May 2025.

Councilmember Scott Berna said it’s unfortunate that the project will lead to the displacement of current residents, but the owner of one of the existing apartment complexes has said they can no longer continue operating and that they must sell their land. Berna said it’s clear that redevelopment will happen with or without the rezoning, so he’d prefer to take this opportunity get as much housing as possible.

A conceptual rendering shows a street-level pedestrian plaza at the northwest corner of a planned student-focused housing project at Treadwell Street and Duncan Avenue. (Modus Studio/Subtext)

Councilmember Teresa Turk said she couldn’t support the project because she thinks it would add too much density to the area, compound existing parking issues, and remove some existing affordable housing.

Councilmember Sarah Bunch agreed with Berna, and said even if the property were sold and remodeled instead of being demolished and replaced, the rent prices will surely escalate.

Berna, Bunch, Bob Stafford, D’Andre Jones, Sarah Moore, Mike Wiederkehr and Holly Hertzberg all voted in favor of the request. Turk cast the only vote against.