In October, when a developer withdrew a proposal to build a 233-unit apartment complex at the corner of Bahia Vista Street and Tuttle Avenue, the property owner said there was a clean slate when it came to plans for the future of the site.
“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,” said Tim Hartnett, the CEO of New Roc Management. “Nothing’s going to be done without those three parties coming together.”
In May, the developer filed a preliminary application for a new project on the site. The plans still call for apartments on the 6.09-acre property, but the size of the complex has been scaled up to between 250 and 280 units, according to documents filed with the city. The buildings would be four stories tall, and vehicular access points to the site would be limited to Bahia Vista and Tuttle.
The developer is requesting an amendment to the city’s comprehensive plan to facilitate the project. The property owner hopes to change the future land use classification of the site from medium density to high density, which would increase the maximum density on the land from 13 units per acre to 50 units per acre.
No property in the city carries the high-density land use designation the developer is seeking. In October, the City Commission approved a zoning code amendment that would require developers to provide some affordable housing in high-density districts if a project exceeds a baseline density of 35 units per acre, as the Bahia Vista Apartments proposal does.
Despite Hartnett’s pledge to work with residents living near the project site, a representative for one neighborhood group said he found out about the proposal after seeing it on the agenda for a meeting of the city’s Development Review Committee.
Rob Grant is a member of the Preserve Arlington Park committee, a group that formed in opposition to the initial plans for a high-density apartment complex on the Bahia Vista site. At community workshops, Arlington Park residents said they believed the apartment project was out of scale with the adjacent neighborhoods of primarily single-family homes. Grant was optimistic when the developer withdrew those plans last year, but he called the new proposal a disappointment.
“I’m disappointed I had to learn about this from a city email,” Grant said. “Then, of course, there’s the disappointment with the fact that now they’re going for broke — they’re going for the absolute maximum number of units they can get.”
Based on the application, Grant speculated the developer would attempt to argue the property is not a part of the Arlington Park neighborhood. He noted the restriction on vehicular access via smaller neighborhood streets, a point of concern raised at previous community workshops. He also pointed out the name of the project had changed from Arlington Commons to Bahia Vista Apartments.
Those changes were not enough to quell Grant’s objections to the prospect of a high-density apartment project.
“This is not compatible,” Grant said. “It does not meet the standard of the comprehensive plan.”
Hartnett did not respond to a request for comment. At previous meetings, members of the project team said the increased density was necessary to ensure the development remained profitable while incorporating some affordable units. Those representatives also said increasing the supply of market-rate apartments would be beneficial for individuals working in the area who are looking for a place to live.
Although the project is just beginning to work through the city’s development review process, Grant is already warily looking ahead to the potential endgame. Borrowing a phrase from Dan Clermont, Arlington Park Neighborhood Association president and Planning Board member, Grant described the current City Commission as “development-forward.”
Although he’s hopeful elected officials will listen to residents’ concerns, Grant expressed skepticism a majority of the board would be willing to turn away the proposed project, citing Mayor Hagen Brody’s support for higher-density projects as a tool to address the city’s housing issues.
“We are going to be fighting an uphill battle,” Grant said. “There’s no doubt about that, and we do not go into this with our eyes closed.”