By: Cody Weisel | Vizzda.com
An abandoned theological institute west of the northwest corner of Priest Road and University Drive may soon be transformed into a new low-density student housing complex. The site—which was operated as the Charles H. Cook Christian Training School from 1965 through its closure in 2008—could soon be razed and replaced with “village-style” student housing units.
The project is referred to in planning documents as Capstone Cottages and would contain 159 units for a total of 718 beds with a variety of townhome and multi-unit cottage style housing products. Tempe Development Review Board (DRB) recently approved a design approval request for the project on April 21st, 2014, however the DRB approval will be appealed before City Council later this month.
The Lindon Park Neighborhood Association, a community organization for the neighborhood just east of the proposed site, has been fervently opposed to the project since being approached by the city and developer. This is not the first time residents of Lindon Park have been opposed to projects at the site. Proposed developments in 2008 and 2011 were both met with opposition by the Neighborhood Association, and were ultimately abandoned.
The current issue of contention is one that echoes past concerns of the residents. Specifically, medium to high density projects at the site would generate increased traffic within the community. To mitigate these traffic concerns, the Capstone developers have agreed to provide a shuttle bus service for residents, install a traffic signal at Lindon and University, and to place speed bumps on the roads which abut the development. Despite these offers, residents remain skeptical about the project.
Contention surrounding this and other academic housing projects raises the issue of specific zoning designations for student housing within the Tempe. The city has no such definition within the Zoning Ordinance for student housing developments, and thus, this and other academic housing projects are able to get away with being considered “multi-family”. Emily Gersema, President of the Lindon Park Neighborhood Association, raised this issue at an April DRB meeting, and will the make a final appeal of the project before Tempe City Council on May 22nd, 2014.