City council’s land use committee to discuss 820-bed student housing development

On Wednesday, Bloomington councilmembers will begin their deliberations on Collegiate Development Group’s proposed 820-bed planned unit development (PUD) on North Walnut at the site of the current Motel 6.

CDG location map iso Screen Shot 2019-07-29 at 11.01.38 AMAt 5:30 p.m. the project will be considered by the four-member land use committee: councilmembers Allison Chopra, Isabel Piedmont-Smith, Chris Sturbaum and Steve Volan.

The regular meeting on Wednesday is set to start at 7:30 p.m.—when the council could possibly make changes to parking regulations on Dunn Street and along 17th Street. So the plan is for the land use committee to wrap up by 7:15 p.m.

When the CDG project had its first reading on July 31, the council voted to refer it to the land use committee. The committee will make a recommendation to the council as a whole.

[Meeting agendas and information packets are available for download on Bloomington’s website. They’re live streamed on CATS.]

Based on the conversation at a city council work session on July 19, the student housing PUD could face some close scrutiny from councilmembers. Concerns floated at the work session included the setback of the building from Walnut Street, and the number of bedrooms per unit. Most of the units are four-bedroom apartments.

The unit mix is: 158 four-bedrooms; 76 two-bedrooms; 2 one-bedrooms; and 34 micro-studios. At the July work session, Volan wondered: “They can’t do three-bedrooms and less?” Responding to Volan, city planner Eric Greulich said, “They did not go that route.”

Volan said developers want to build larger apartments, because “it maximizes the profit.” Volan added, “Those are the kinds of apartments that generate the most quality of life issues, even if this is not in a neighborhood.”

Using the city’s weighting scheme for “dwelling unit equivalents,” the density of the proposed PUD works out to 77 DUEs per acre—in an area of the city where existing zoning code allows a maximum of 15 DUEs per acre.

In addition to the more than four-fold increase in the DUE count per acre, the project needs a waiver of the requirement that a PUD have a minimum gross area of 5 acres. The project area covers 3.85 acres. The requirement can be waived by the plan commission, which recommended approval of the project on an 8–0 vote in mid-June.

At the July work session, some councilmembers were concerned that some longer range (10-year) projections for Indiana University enrollment are for declining numbers of students.

The PUD proposal from CDG acquisitions includes a formula-based contribution to the city’s city’s affordable housing fund. If the project winds up including 820 bedrooms as currently proposed, the developer’s contribution would amount to $2.46 million. The formula that CDG proposed is $20,000 per bed for 15% of the total beds on the property.

If the implicit negotiations that could unfold between the city council and CDG result in fewer bedrooms, the formula would yield a smaller contribution to the fund.

Cropped Sidewalk to nowhere IMG_9777
Looking south on the east side of North Walnut Street, the sidewalk ends. As part of the conditions for approval of the CDG project at the Motel 6 site, the sidewalk would be extended to 19th Street around the corner to join an existing sidewalk on 19th Street. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Another point that could draw some scrutiny is the developer’s proposal to fill in a sidewalk gap on North Walnut leading south up the hill to 19th Street.

The idea is to provide an alternative to a more direct path through Varsity Villa to the east: “The petitioner has also committed to completing a segment of missing sidewalk south of this site. The segment of sidewalk would extend south along the property occupied by Parkview Apartments and would extend east along 19th Street. This would complete a sidewalk system along Walnut Street and extend it east to connect to existing sidewalks along 19th Street.”

From Walnut to Dunn, 19th Street runs east-west about 520 yards. Starting at Walnut, heading east on the south side of 19th Street, the first sidewalk slab appears about 400 yards along, just before Grant Street, where it was installed as a part of the Evolve student housing development. On the north side of 19th Street, after the sidewalk gap in front of Parkview Apartments, to filled in by CDG, the existing sidewalk extends about 100 yards east before ending, leaving a 100-yard gap—before another 100-yard section of sidewalk appears, followed by another gap.

When the plan commission considered the project, the commission’s chair, Joe Hoffmann, said 19th Street should eventually be considered as a possible candidate for a bicycle boulevard.