Student housing OK’d for Blossom, Huger

ccope@thestate.comMarch 13, 2014 

The renderings of the designs proposed by local developer Ben Arnold on city documents.

— Columbia’s design board Thursday approved plans for a 640-bed student housing apartment complex near the Vista.

Designs for the complex were presented by the current landowner, local developer Ben Arnold. It is the third time he has brought plans before the board on the project at the busy intersection of Blossom and Huger streets.

The owner of the complex could have their property taxes cut in half for the next 10 years in a deal approved by Richland County Council and supported by the city of Columbia.

Martin Moore with CBRE in Columbia is handling the sale of Arnold’s land to the Manhattan, N.Y.-based Park 7 Group for the project.

On Tuesday the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals approved a special exception to allow the complex to have 640 beds, which is 10 more per acre than the 600 that the district allows.

The minimum requirement for parking is 480 spaces for cars or .75 spaces per bed.

That standard was developed with input from developers of student housing as well as the monitoring of local and regional trends concerning car ownership in these types of developments, the city’s parking services director, John David Spade, wrote in an email.

“The trend in a development of this type is that car ownership per bedroom has been steadily declining,” he wrote.

Bob Guild of the Granby Neighborhood Association told the board Thursday that the mill village is boxed in by busy roads and raised concerns about getting in and out of the neighborhood.

When dense projects are added to the area, a solution is to control traffic, he said, suggesting a traffic signal at Wheat and Huger streets.

When the city approves dense projects, it should give serious thinking to the traffic grid, he said.

Ryan Nevius, of Sustainable Midlands, who works in the 701 Whaley building, also addressed traffic concerns to the board. She said she watches students who live at the Aspyre apartment complex drive to the university a few blocks away.

She said the city needs to be more walk-able going forward.

“We need to have a plan when we allow these companies to put in student housing,” Nevius said.

She said there needs to be safe ways for students to travel to campus by bike or foot.

Tax incentives are encouraging student housing so a plan needs to be put in place for people to travel by foot, she said.

The building materials include brick, stucco, composite panel system and corrugated metal panels, according to city documents. The color of the exterior appears to be contrasting shades of blue, according to visual renderings.

Arnold said the developer is aiming to be occupied in August 2015.

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