A local apartment developer is proposing to build far fewer units on a north-side AT&T site than what a rival firm had envisioned in a proposal unpopular with residents in the Meridian-Kessler neighborhood. But it still is seeking permission to exceed height restrictions.
Milhaus Development LLC is slated to present its plans for the project on Thursday to the Metropolitan Development Commission’s hearing examiner, as part of a request to rezone the property with variances.
The three-acre property southwest of the busy intersection of College Avenue and Kessler Boulevard includes the phone company’s office building and parking lot. A larger switching station to the north is not part of the purchase.
Milhaus wants to rezone the property for mixed-use development to provide for 100 apartments, 9,200 square feet of retail and 160 parking spaces, with roughly 130 in an underground garage for residents.
By comparison, TWG Development LLC originally had proposed building a five-story, $39 million apartment project with an underground parking garage that called for 205 units and 3,000 square feet of retail space.
TWG in March abandoned its plans to redevelop the site after encountering strong resistance from neighbors, even after reducing the size of the project by one story and 51 units in an effort to gain support.
Milhaus had bid on the property before AT&T initially chose TWG, and decided to pursue it again once the TWG proposal flopped.
"Since purchasing this property this summer, our vision has been to create a progressive and appropriate development of residential and neighborhood retail in a well-designed and integrated project," Milhaus president Jeremy Stephenson wrote in an email to IBJ.
"We are thankful for the input of many neighborhood residents, our design partners at Ratio, and the support of the neighborhood association as we worked together to bring about a development of which we can all be proud," Stephenson wrote.
If approved, the project would begin construction in early 2017. Stephenson declined to divulge the cost.
Site plans from Milhaus show three connected structures—three- and four-stories tall—laid out in an “E” configuration.
Two of the wings would include both residential and commercial uses, with a 30.75-foot front setback, and the southernmost wing limited to a strictly residential use with a 54-foot setback.
Development standards for the area call for a maximum 20-foot setback. The increased setbacks, however, are appropriate to maintain neighborhood harmony with the commercial structures to the east and north, and to mitigate the impact on residential neighbors to the south, Department of Metropolitan Development staff said in their recommendation to approve the variance.
Milhaus also is seeking a variance for a building height up to 54 feet, where a 35-foot height is permitted.
Although the height and front setbacks exceed the limits, DMD staff believes the variances are acceptable deviations “because of the building configuration, including building setbacks and upper floor step-backs, landscape buffering, and fence screening along the western boundary.”
Staff further said the variances are supported by a recently adopted Meridian-Kessler neighborhood plan, which calls for a “a multi-story mixed–use building that is integrated and consistent with the character and architecture of the neighborhood.”
The Meridian-Kessler Neighborhood Association’s land use committee held five public meetings during the past five months to gather input from residents. The association ultimately voted to support rezoning with variances given the commitments Milhaus has filed with DMD.
“While we recognize that concerns remain with parts of the development exceeding the height recommendation, we feel this variance is appropriate and acceptable, given Milhaus’ commitments to transition the height from the south residential properties to the north commercial properties, 'step-back' design of the façade (resulting in an average height of 45 feet along College Ave), and the screening afforded by maintaining the mature street trees,” the committee said in a report.
Site plans show building materials of brick and fiber cement, with aluminum storefronts.
AT&T put the north-side property on the market in April 2015 and hired the local office of JLL to coordinate the bidding process. Per its agreement, TWG was set to pay about $3 million for the land before abandoning its project.