After expressing opposition to the Arlington Commons proposal, residents hope new plans will be more in line with their desires.
| 6:00 a.m. November 19, 2020
Plans for an Arlington Park apartment complex that drew organized opposition from hundreds of residents won’t be advancing to the City Commission for consideration after the developer withdrew its application late last month.
That doesn’t mean a residential complex isn’t eventually coming to 2750 Bahia Vista St., the site of the proposed Arlington Commons project. But a representative for the development team confirmed the details of the initial proposal — which called for a density increase to accommodate a 233-unit apartment building with 35 affordable units — are now all subject to change.
“We pretty much have a clean slate,” said Tim Hartnett, the CEO of New Roc Management.
Some residents of Arlington Park were happy to hear the news of the withdrawal. When the Arlington Commons developer held its first community workshop about the project in August 2019, residents in attendance expressed concern about the scale of the apartment building, slated for the former Doctors Hospital property on the edge of the neighborhood near the intersection of Bahia Vista and Tuttle Avenue.
Shortly afterward, residents formed the Preserve Arlington Park neighborhood committee, a group that has expressed opposition to proposed city regulatory changes in the area that would allow higher-density residential construction. To date, the group has collected 327 signatures on an online petition opposing the Arlington Commons project.
Hartnett did not specify any aspects of the proposal the developer might change as it puts together new plans. The Oct. 30 withdrawal letter came three days before the city finalized the creation of higher-density residential zoning districts with built-in affordable housing requirements. The Arlington Commons proposal included the use of one of those zoning districts, which allowed for a density up to 50 units per acre.
Hartnett said the application was withdrawn because of the fluidity of the development process and changing economic conditions.
“We’re figuring out the best way to reconcile our needs and the needs of the city and the needs of the neighbors, as well,” Hartnett said. “Nothing’s going to be done without those three parties coming together.”
Robert Grant, a member of Preserve Arlington Park, spoke at the Nov. 2 City Commission meeting and said the group was relieved to learn the initial Arlington Commons application wouldn’t be moving forward. Still, the neighborhood was unclear on the circumstances of the withdrawal, and Grant feared it might have just been a minor procedural move. Told about Hartnett’s comments about the project, Grant thought it was a positive sign.
“My knee-jerk reaction is: That’s an encouraging development,” Grant said.
Grant said he was hopeful all parties could have a productive conversation in which the developer makes an active effort to ascertain the neighborhood’s needs and concerns before submitting a new proposal. Grant said residents are willing to consider modest adjustments to the existing density limits in the area, but they would likely continue to balk at something like the increase in the initial Arlington Commons proposal, which would have doubled the density on the property.
Grant said that for any project, residents would be focused on how new construction would affect traffic and other neighborhood infrastructure. If the developer continues to incorporate affordable housing into its plans, Grant said he would like to see more significant contributions than the initial proposal, which would have set aside 15% of its total units at affordable rates for residents earning up to 120% of area median income.
Some of the neighborhood’s concerns extend beyond the specifics of the Arlington Common project. As the city pursues more affordable housing, Grant said officials should not just focus on new construction but also find ways to help assure residents that existing units remain preserved.
“If there’s going to be a density increase, we need to find a way to protect the affordable housing stock we have in Arlington Park right now,” Grant said.