$41 million project by UC delayed to address community concerns

$41 million project by UC delayed to address community concerns

planned $41 million development near the University of Cincinnati has been delayed as the neighboring community and city staff voiced concerns about portions of the project.

Cincinnati Planning Commission voted unanimously Friday morning to hold a proposed zone change for Hallmark Campus Communities’ planned Gateway Lofts project at the southeast corner of West McMillan Street and Moerlein Avenue in CUF. The commission asked the development team to work with the neighborhood and staff from the Department of City Planning and Engagement to come to an agreement regarding elements of the project.

Gateway Lofts is planned as a six-story student housing building that would include 116 units with a total of 469 beds. The project would include a mix of two-bedroom, four-bedroom and five-bedroom units. It also would include 153 underground parking spaces. The total investment for the project is estimated to be about $41 million.

During a nearly 3-hour discussion, the main issues with the project as it was presented include:

  • The height of the southern building on Lyon Street should be limited to a maximum height of six stories, the two garage levels plus four residential floors and set back at least 30 feet from the right-of-way of Lyon Street behind the proposed townhomes/parking garage instead of the proposed 15 feet
  • The northern building on West McMillan Street may be built taller
  • The parking ratio should be increased to 0.7 spaces per bed from the current 0.5 spaces.

Even though the members of the community said there were some issues with the plan in its current form, they did not say they were against the project completely.

Will Kirk, president of Columbus-based Hallmark, said shifting units from the southern building to the northern building would be a costly change to the development. Going taller would change the northern building from a wood-frame building to concrete and steel, which would add $5 million in construction costs and delay the ability to deliver the project for the 2023 school year.

Dean Wenz, architect at Dean A. Wenz Architects, said Gateway Lofts was designed to fit into the neighborhood.

“Our goal is to provide a handsome structure that works well within this property and this area,” Wenz said during the planning commission meeting held via Zoom.

As for the parking, the development team said it believes the building is appropriately parked as designed because of the increase in ride sharing, the location’s walkability and the availability of public transportation in the area. In addition, the developers have discussed with the operators of the garages at U Square @ the Loop across the street to set aside 75 spaces for monthly parkers who would live at Gateway Lofts.

When Byron Stallworth, chair of the planning commission, asked the development team if it would scrap the project if the commission voted to hold the item for now, Kirk said no, but what they were being asked to do was not as simple as moving some units from one part of the project to another.

“I’m saying it’s a complete redesign,” Kirk said during the meeting. “Simply adding two stories on is not feasible as the project currently stands.”

Jake Samad, a planning commission member, suggested instead of a motion to hold the item until the recommended modifications from city staff were made, the planning commission should include language to hold the item until changes are made that are substantially agreeable to the parties.

Barrett Tullis, partner with KMK Law representing Hallmark, said the development team is willing to commit to having further discussions to find a solution that satisfies all parties.

Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman, a member of the planning commission, told the development team before voting to hold the project that it would be in the team’s best interest to move quickly to come to resolution that will allow the project to move forward.

“This doesn’t have to take two months, this might take two weeks,” Smitherman said.