Double Feature at the City Hall Bijou:
***Two stirring planning commission melodramas.***
- “Back To The Past”: A nostalgic flick starring a single family subdivision that could put as many as 750 lots near the I-24-SR 840 Interchange. The area around the interchange itself is considered an ideal candidate for a corporate center.
- “Back To The Future”: Plans for 203 luxury apartments in the city’s gateway district. It’s a project that calls out a welcome to talented millennials who crave urban living.
Both proposals came before the city’s planning commissioners Thursday. Is one preferable to the other?
Not enough land to house everyone in single-family homes
In a comment Thursday, Margaret Ann Green, a principal planner, reminded the commissioners that Murfreesboro can’t accommodate all the people expected to come here if it keeps chewing up land with single-family homes There simply isn’t enough buildable land to construct large-lot tracts for the 100,000 people expected to arrive in the next 20 years.
Luring young professionals is like college football recruiting
A consultant advising the city how to cope with the next 20 years of rapid growth here paints single family homes as almost passe to the Millennial Generation.
The Texas-based Kendig Keast Collaborative claims young professionals reject the dream of a single family home in the suburbs. Instead, they are opting for life in an exciting urban center. The size of their living unit isn’t important because they plan to spend little time there.
A tale of two projects
Let’s look at the two projects. Obviously, there appears to be a market for both.
At its maximum, density would be 3.1 units per acre
The single-family homes would be built on 242 acres lying between Blackman and Florence Roads, just north of the interchange. Parks Development, which has a contract to buy the property, has asked the city to rezone the land to Planned Residential Development at the same time it annexes it. .
Apartment living in the Gateway
The luxury apartments will be built in the heart of the city’s gateway district, on a parcel shaped line a ballpark between Avenue Way, Gresham Park Drive and Conference Center Blvd. The applicant, TDK Construction, a local firm, hopes to rezone it from two commercial designations to a planned residential district.
The commissioners set March 2nd for a public hearing on both requests.
Growing upward and not outward
Councilman Eddie Smotherman, who also serves on the planning commission, has said that the state’s ban on forced annexations means the city will have to accommodate much of its future growth by expanding upward instead of outward.
Attract smart people and “get out of their way”
In a recent article, The New York Times quotes Edward Glaeser, a Harvard economist, as saying: “There is a very strong track record of places that attract talent becoming places of long-term success. The most successful economic development policy is to attract and retain smart people and then get out of their way.”
This apartment project seems like a needed first step toward making the city’s downtown a more vibrant place where young professionals will want to live. At the same time, high density development in the city should provide more customers to downtown merchants.
Consultant pushing infill growth over more urban sprawl
The idea of giving a boost to the city’s central area by building multi-family projects like this one is a key theme of the city’s planning study for the year 2035.
The Kendig Keast Collaborative, the Texas-based consultant preparing the study, argues that infill development makes more sense than sprawl because infrastructure like city streets, sewers and other utilities are already in place. In contrast sprawl development on vacant land on the fringes of the city requires things like streets and sewers to be built from scratch.
If high density development is needed to make the city’s downtown area more lively this project would fit the bill. The 203 apartments amount to a density of nearly 37 dwelling units per acre.
The one-, two- and three-bedroom units will be built in two buildings, one five stories high and a second of four stories. The five-story building will be located along Conference Center and Gresham Park, while the four-story building will run along Gresham Park and Avenue Way. The units will range from 592 square feet for a single-bedroom apartment to 1,382 square feet for a three bedroom model.
The applicants on the proposed single-family planned residential development plan to hold a meeting with residents in the area on Feb. 29th, two days before the public hearing.
Matt Taylor, vice president of the SEC engineering firm, which is working on the project, said said there will be three entrances to the development, two off Blackman and one off Florence. He added that all homes will be detached and there will be five housing types on lots varying from 35 feet wide to 85 feet. The homes will range from 1,800 square feet in area to 3,000 square feet or more. There will be open space areas for both passive and active uses, including a playground and a pocket park.
A start toward solving water problem at Northboro
In other business, the residents of Northboro Court learned how a developer, who is seeking to build single-family homes and townhouses on 16.5 acres next to them, will try to alleviate a long-standing flooding problem in their neighborhood. The applicant wants to rezone the property to planned residential development along with annexation into the city.
The little dig
Bill Huddleston, president of Huddleston-Steele Engineering, told the commissioners that he would build a two-foot-deep ditch along the common property line to carry rainwater away from the development to a storm-sewer pipe on West Thompson Lane. He added that he will lower natural ridges that are trapping water as he builds his ditch. In response to question, Huddleston said he is building the ditch solely to reduce the flooding problems in the Northboo development. All runoff from the development he plans to build will be captured in retention ponds.
As he was leaving the meeting, Ray Boyd, one of the Northboro residents, said he is still concerned about traffic development this large project will generate.
About 3/4 will be townhomes
The plan calls for 31 single family homes on lots of at least 9,000 square feet on the west side, next to Northboro Court. The homes themselves would be fairly large, containing at least 2,400 square feet. The balance of the proposal would consist of 91 townhomes with a minimum of 1,500 square feet. Thursday, Huddleston said the applicant is reducing the number of townhomes by 10% from his original proposal.
The commissioners voted unanimously to recommend approval of Blue Sky Construction’s rezoning request to planned residential development from large single family lots.