Members of the City’s Design and Project Review Committee (DAPR) voted unanimously at their Aug. 16 meeting to approve preliminary review of an affordable housing project proposed for Dempster Street at Pitner Avenue. The plan was originally presented to the committee on Aug. 9, but “due to the need for additional information to address issues brought up” at the meeting – as recorded in the minutes – the vote was moved to the mid-August agenda.
Michael Newman, architect, submitted for review a proposed three-story, 16-unit building to be managed by Housing Opportunities for Women (HOW). The brick and glass building would house one-and two-bedroom units and include a 16-space parking lot and landscaping. HOW offices would occupy the first floor. The single-family home located on the private lot would be demolished.
City zoning regulations dictate the size and type of structure that can be built on a property. Multi-unit residential projects, like this housing development, fall under the City’s R5 designation. The Pitner/ Dempster lot is zoned R5, which would allow a five-story, or 50-foot tall, building.
Residents continued to express concerns about the proposed structure, raising questions about traffic, drainage, and parking. Several have said the building is too big and is out of character for the neighborhood.
Support for the project has also been expressed. At the Aug 9 meeting, Sue Loellbach of Connections for the Homeless said the project is a new opportunity for affordable housing for working families, and she hopes the development can be worked out. Devon Reid, the City Clerk, stated his support of the project at the meeting as well.
Now that a preliminary review has been approved, HOW will revise its plan, based on feedback received at the meeting and return to DAPR for final review.
“DAPR is the final deciding body” in this case since the building plan submitted is “within code,” said Meagan Jones of the City’s Planning and Zoning Commission. If the plan had included variances, it would need to go before the Zoning Board and City Council but it does not, she said.
Once the plan undergoes final review, DAPR can approve the project for advancement to the permit process, where City staff work to ensure the structure is built in compliance with all codes.
Funding for the project is a separate process. It is expected that HOW will request assistance from the City’s Affordable Housing Fund at the Sept. 7 meeting of the Housing, Homelessness & Human Relations Committee, said Sarah Flax, Division Manager, Housing and Grants. “Anyone requesting funds from the home or affordable housing fund must provide a lot of information and there is an assessment of whether the proposed project makes sense for the community.” That assessment becomes a recommendation to the City’s Planning and Development Committee which then forwards their funding recommendation to City Council for final vote.