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Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Fort Worth zoning commission continues TCU-area apartment case again

By Scott Nishimura snishimura@bizpress.net

Neighborhoods and the developer that wants to put in a controversial 175-bedroom apartment community along South University Drive near TCU have another month to hash out their differences.

The Fort Worth Zoning Commission on Wednesday voted 9-0 to continue the case for 30 days, after meetings – including one moderated by the city Tuesday – didn’t result in an agreement.

“Smart people come up with a creative solution,” Commissioner Gaye Reed, who represents the district that includes TCU, said in moving for the continuance. “There’s got to be one.”

Barry Hudson, representing the ownership group, asked for the 30-day continuance. Brent Spear, president of the Bluebonnet Hills Neighborhood Association, concurred.

Hudson complimented the neighborhoods for their “passion and commitment.”

“We all want what’s best for the city of Fort Worth,” he said.

The developer and the neighborhoods want to advance the city’s Berry/University and Bluebonnet Circle urban villages, he said, that are on opposite ends of the proposed development.

“What the disconnect is the interpretation of what that is,” Hudson said. “We’re still a long way apart.”

The neighborhood groups, including the Bluebonnet Hills association and the Berry Street Initiative, view the 1.37-acre site at 3220-3248 S. University as a critical link between the two urban villages and TCU.

The owner, Shope and Ryan Management, is seeking a rezoning of the site hat would effectively allow more beds.

But associations say the project is too big and dense and will infringe on the neighborhoods, doesn’t have enough parking, and is inappropriately designed for its high-profile location between the two urban villages.

About 30 attended Wednesay’s zoning commission hearing, the second in the case. Zoning commissioners in March continued the case until Wednesday’s meeting.

Ojala Holdings of Dallas, the agent for Shope and Ryan, wants the property rezoned to “urban residential” from “C medium density multifamily.”

The new classification has no limits on the numbers of bedrooms, but it requires one parking space per bedroom. The property owners plan 80 apartments containing a total of 175 bedrooms.

Under the current zoning, they’re allowed a total of 125 bedrooms.If it gets the site rezoned, Ojala plans the maximum allowable three stories of residential space above ground, plus one level of underground parking. The garage will contain 175 spaces, plus an additional 25 spaces for residents’ guests.

Neighborhood representatives said the parking is inadequate for the number of likely residents and guests, and they predicted that parking would overflow into the neighborhoods.

Shope and Ryan has asserted the planned project is substantially “overparked” compared with requirements.

Residents also object to the building’s proposed design, which includes several different looks built into the facade and materials such as brick and stone. It includes a main entry into a foyer that leads to the elevator and leasing office, and it lacks ground-floor, street-facing exterior entrances that the neighborhood groups wanted.

The neighborhoods say the project doesn’t advance the pedestrian-friendly scene they say that segment of South University needs.

The developers stress the city’s planning staff found the project compatible with surrounding uses and consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan.

It’s less dense than other residential buildings nearby, they note. The developer can build three stories under its current zoning, and it plans to go with greater setbacks than are required. The proposed plan also calls for street-friendly improvements such as bike racks, benches and trash receptacles.

Some neighbors have complained about the possibility of noise, so Shope and Ryan removed a swimming pool from their plan. They also designed the site with one entry and exit, on South University, to contain and direct traffic.

Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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