Columbia City Council approves another housing complex, The Residences, for construction

The apartments are slated to open August 2015.

It may have been a struggle, but after months of repackaging and negotiation, The Residences at Fifth Street and Conley Avenue were finally approved to begin construction.

In a unanimous vote last week by the city council, the request by Collegiate Housing Partners to build the six-story, 103-unit, 354-bed student housing complex was granted.

Collegiate Housing Partners, which had previously sparked debate within the community following a request to demolish and build over the historic Niedermeyer Apartments downtown, decided to reapply for a construction permit after the Niedermeyer, the city’s oldest building, was bought up in March for renovation.

One of over half a dozen independent student housing complexes that dot the city, The Residences (unlike its faraway competitors at The Gateway and The Cottages) will house students a stone’s throw from campus.

To Mayor Bob McDavid, that’s a welcome change from recent developments in the city’s periphery.

“It’s going to be attractive to some students that don’t have cars,” McDavid said. “I think it was the best use of the land. I’m in favor of good student accommodations near campus.”

Yet McDavid’s and the city’s approval came with a handful of conditions—namely, said Development Services Manager Pat Zenner, that staff and the Planning and Zoning commission both recommend the motion.

While the development will house up to 354 students, it’s required by its C-2 zoning designation to accommodate at least 80 percent of its residents’ transportation needs.

Normally, that would mean the developer would have to provide over 280 parking spots. But given The Residences’ proximity to campus, CHP’s Director of Development Brandt Stiles said, alternatives abound.

“We’re trying to educate students that (they) don’t need a car,” Stiles said.

So instead, the building will only provide 192 parking spaces: 124 in a first-floor garage, 18 in the street and up to 50 in the city-owned Conley Avenue Garage across the street.

“Obviously it won’t take a car to get to campus,” McDavid said.

To make up the difference, The Residences will provide public transportation options to the 162 remaining residents. Those options range from over 100 FastCAT Express passes to 90 bicycle parking spaces, Stiles said.

CHP will also work with the city to provide a bike-sharing program for residents, and intends to partner with Zipcar, the short-term car rental service, to provide quick transportation by the hour.

If residents exceed parking capacity even with those options available, Stiles said, his firm will work out additional parking arrangements with nearby landowners.

“Historically it’s been a problem downtown because there hasn’t been any on-site parking,” Stiles said. But given the planning that’s gone into The Residences, he said, that contingency is unlikely.

And it’s certainly an improvement, Zenner noted, over the initial offerings.

“A lot of issues with the proposal—parking and transportation, especially … (were) addressed since (the proposal) was first put forth,” Zenner said.

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