Land for 10-story student housing complex approved

City Council voted to approve the consolidation of two lots into one for the complex.

Plans for a 10-story student housing complex were furthered Monday night when City Council voted to approve the land for the apartments.

The approved proposal will consolidate two lots, the lot of the James Condominiums residential building and the parking lot the James Condominiums uses, into one single lot on South Tenth Street.

Second year law student Grace Shemwell created a petition entitled “Save Columbia's Historic Downtown District and Give Students Affordable Housing!” which gained traffic since Monday’s vote. The petition is for an appeal of City Council’s decision.

As of 9:15 p.m. on Feb. 16, the petition currently has 966 signatures, 80 percent from Columbia residents, of its goal of 2,567.

Several MU students commented on the petition in opposition of the housing complex.

“These old buildings and bars give character to downtown Columbia and knocking them down is detrimental to the city, the university, and those who call Columbia home — whether they're here for a few years or a lifetime,” senior Sean McNealy commented.

City Counselor Nancy Thompson explained that the council was only voting on the approval of the lines drawn for platting, not on the use of the land. As long as requirements for the subdivision codes are met, which Thompson said have been, she said there’s “limited discretion to deny that act.”

“So what happens if we don’t like the apartment building and vote down the plat?” Mayor Bob McDavid asked.

“Use is not a consideration when determining whether or not you’re going to approve a plat,” Thompson answered.

“But what happens if we vote against it?” McDavid asked again.

“I guess we see,” Thompson said.

The council would have to provide reasoning underneath the subdivision code for denial of the plat, or else they would be potentially liable, Thompson said.

The bill passed 6-1. Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala was the only member to vote against the plat. He expressed concern for the apartment’s potential to pose a public safety risk to the sewer system. He also said that downtown is losing its appeal to non-students.

“Just so I can go to sleep tonight, I’m going to vote no,” Skala said.

While the city does not currently have building plans for the complex, City Manager Mike Matthes said there’s indication that the scheduled project will be completed by the summer of 2017. This means it’d most likely be opened to the public after the Flat Branch Watershed Relief Sewer Project is finished, alleviating any potential sewage issues.

The housing complex, known as Rise Apartments, will be located in place of James Condominiums, Quinton's Bar & Deli and Britches Clothing, and where Mackenzie's Prime used to stand.

Edited by Emily Gallion | egallion@themaneater.com

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