View of unnamed student housing building Credit: Credit: Erdy McHenry Architecture

A plan to build a third student housing building on West Main Street faced opposition from the Charlottesville Planning Commission on Tuesday.

“I feel like this is Groundhog Day,” said Commissioner John Santoski, referring to the recent approval of two other student housing complexes within a block of the new project.

The developer of the unnamed third project, Campus Acquisitions Holdings, has asked for a special use permit to build 240 units on a 1.28 acre parcel of land at the corner of West Main and Roosevelt Brown Boulevard.

Construction is now underway on the Flats at West Village, which will have up to 595 bedrooms in a complex that will climb eight stories. Earlier this month, the City Council approved The Standard, a similar project directly across West Main from the Flats at West Village that would have just as many rooms in a six-story building.

If the permit is approved for the third project, it could be up to nine stories high in an L-shaped building. Additionally, there would also be 9,340 square feet commercial space along Roosevelt Brown Boulevard.

Rents per bedroom would be between $700 and $900 a month, representatives for Campus Acquisitions Holdings said.

Without a permit, construction on the lot is restricted to a height of 70 feet and about 50 residential units.

“As a residential product, what we’re trying to do is really cater to the market that exists at the university,” said Scott Erdy, architect for the project.

However, some commissioners at the work session said this latest project may be too much for the city to handle.

“College towns are being oversaturated with this kind of housing and there’s a feeding frenzy right now,” said Commissioner Genevieve Keller, who also voted against the Standard but voted for the Flats.

Santoski said he didn’t understand why a third company would want to build a student housing complex when two others have already been approved.

“I don’t see any reason to grant the special use permit to go over 70 feet,” Santoski said. “I’d appreciate seeing something a lot shorter that stays within the by-right height.”

However, Steve Bus with Campus Acquisition Holding said the project would find tenants.

“The University of Virginia is probably one of the best values in public education in the United States,” he said. “That’s something that when we consider an investment of this magnitude, we don’t take it lightly.”

Bus said his firm would pay into the Charlottesville Housing Fund rather than build affordable units on site.

The project would be adjacent to the UVa Medical Center’s core laboratory, a fact that concerns David Neuman, the university’s architect.

“We’re taking this project very seriously,” Neuman said. “Though we can see some benefit to it, we also need to see that it’s being responsibly planned and designed and built.”

He pointed out that the hospital is the region’s Level 3 trauma center.

“Anything that would impact its ability to deliver that care appropriately and safely would be a problem for us,” he said.

Neuman also said a tall building would encroach on the flight path for helicopters that land on the hospital’s roof.

Other commissioners had concerns about the relationship between the building and streets.

“To me, it seems like what is being proposed is very imposing for pedestrians on Roosevelt Brown,” said Commissioner Natasha Sienitsky.

As part of his response to the commission, Bus said a by-right office development would generate more traffic than the primarily residential use his firm has proposed.

The project is scheduled to return to the Planning Commission for review of the special use permit in December.
 

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