The developers of a proposed four-story apartment complex across from the light rail station at Central Avenue and Camelback Road have withdrawn their rezoning request for the property, fearing they just didn’t have the City Council votes to get it passed.
The council was scheduled to review the rezoning request on March 19, which would change approximately 1.14 acres located near 3rd Avenue and Camelback Road from commercial to multi-family residential. However, the developers pulled the request in early March.
Neighborhood opposition had been strong against the proposal, which would have created 50 primarily workforce housing units within easy walking distance of the busy light rail station.
Representatives from the adjacent Medlock Place historic neighborhood objected to the height and the density of the project, which abuts their 100-year-old, single-story community. Is was the strong opposition that ultimately made the developers choose to withdraw the rezoning request, explains Larry Lazarus of Lazarus, Silvyn & Bangs, P.C., who represents the developers.
Nearly 500 signed petitions were turned into city staff opposing the project, and leadership from adjacent neighborhood groups also wrote strongly-worded letters against it. Such organized opposition meant that the City Council would have to pass the rezoning request by a supermajority, or three-quarters vote. And City Councilwoman Laura Pastor, who represents that district, had already stated she would not vote in favor of the rezoning request. Which meant that just two more council members would have to vote no in order for the request to fail.
Michael Stringfellow from the Chasse Building Team had contacted the project’s financing partners to determine whether reducing the height to three stories across the board or otherwise reducing the density of the units to below 50 would compromise the financing. The project qualified for certain tax credits and other financial incentives; however, the answer came back that to reduce the number of units any further would jeopardize those tax credits.
“We have to make sure we have a project that is financially feasible,” Lazarus said. By reducing the height and the number of units, “We would not have been able to get the tax credits necessary to make the project work.”
Ellen Bilbrey, secretary for the Medlock Place Neighborhood Association, said, “Now we are moving forward again to find those individuals who see the potential for creating exciting retail, entertainment, or public projects that match the Historic Neighborhood Station Place Type at Central and Camelback.”
Residents in the area have long envisioned something low intensity, low height, and mid-century modern in design (to match the adjacent neighborhoods) for this underused property.
The property remains zoned for commercial uses. “We are investigating other possible uses for that site,” said Lazarus, who added that, given the proximity to the light rail, the best uses would be something with a higher concentration of employment, such as an office complex, or a higher concentration of living, such as a hotel, apartments or skilled nursing.