As the university’s student enrollment rates rise, as decreed by the Arizona Board of Regents, the university and Flagstaff are faced with the problem of housing.
Private developer Core Campus has put years of work into developing a student dorm, named The Hub, on the island of underused property surrounded by Milton Rd., Mikes Pike St. and Phoenix Ave.
These streets are located between the railroad tracks and the university. Core Campus brought their plans before the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission Jan. 13 at City Hall. The meeting lasted more than four hours and will be continued at their next meeting.
On the night of the meeting, seats were packed as nearly 30 citizens went up to speak their opinions. Two citizens voiced their support of the project, while the rest voiced their opposition.
“I will just say, personally, I appreciate all the public comment and all the time you put into it,” commission chairman David Carpenter said. “I’ve never seen this many people here.”
The focus of the meeting was twofold: to determine whether to give a Conditional-Use Permit (CUP) to Core Campus’s development, and to determine whether or not to rezone two sides of the property that Core Campus already owns. As the meeting is set to continue on Feb. 3, there was no determination made at the January meeting.
The CUP would allow Core Campus’s residents to hold an individual lease for their own bedroom, as opposed to one lease signed by multiple roommates.
Rezoning the side of the building on Mikes Pike would allow the developers to build up to five stories with the first floor being business space. Rezoning the Phoenix Ave. side of the building would allow the developers to build up to four stories with a first-floor residential space.
The developer’s figures state that the complex will allow for 663 beds, with one student to a bed, and an underground parking garage beneath the complex. This garage would contain up to 37 percent of their tenants’ vehicles — a figure that Core Campus, whose has also built off-campus student housing in Tucson, says is the best they have ever done with one of their properties.
Many of the citizens against the building, from children to adults, had a plethora of different reasons for vocally opposing the structure. The most vocalized reason of opposition focused on the influx of cars that would crowd the street.
“We all know that 400 residents without parking is sure to exacerbate the existing problem we have,” said Caleb Schiff, owner of local pizzeria Pizzicletta. “Lack of street parking will hurt local businesses, like mine, when customers want to come in but cannot find a place to park.”
Other common reasons of opposition included the vast history of the neighborhood and the current people residing there. One family, represented by citizen Albert Lopez, has family ties to that area that extend back nearly 100 years.
“We go back a long time,” said Lopez. “Something like this where they just keep building more and more, we’re going to get squeezed out.”
One word that continually came up during the public comment section was the word “precedent.” That is, the importance of the first off-campus student housing complex that will directly be a part of Flagstaff neighborhoods. The idea of student housing is put into context by the only other off campus student-housing complex, The Grove -- a local and national subject of student controversy.
As the rate of university enrollment increases, many people feel that this will set the tone for how these development discussions will be addressed in the future.
“There’s no question that there’s a demand for it, so it’s going to be built. So let’s build it in the location and in the way that makes the most sense for the community,” said Tory Syracuse, executive director of Friends of Flagstaff’s Future. “If we approve one, how can we not approve the next one and the next one? One Hub may have a relatively limited impact on a certain part of the south side, what would two or three of those types of developments downtown really mean?”
Those in support of the Core Campus development point out the location is great — as students could use the nearby bus system or walk to school — and that the need for more student housing is even greater. Stuart McDaniels, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce, represented the chamber and cited the high cost of living in the city as a reason to support the development.
“It’s a basic supply and demand issue,” said McDaniels. “There is not enough housing, whether it’s student housing or workforce housing, currently. I certainly recognize the concerns that people have about this project; at the same time, housing costs are high — 30 percent higher than they are in the valley. Part of that is due to the fact that we are growing and the housing has not kept up with growth.”
Core Campus was asked by the council to bring back several different visual renderings to the next meeting at 4 p.m., Feb. 3 in City Hall. If the Planning and Zoning Commission approves the project, those against the building would also have a second chance to fight against it at a City Council meeting where the council can approve or deny the project.