dr martens 1460 boot Developer proposes new Green Street student housing development
American Campus Communities is trying again to build a new student housing development in Blacksburg. This time, representatives for the company say that they have fixed many of the problems in their last proposal. However, some nearby residents are skeptical.
The 3.8 acre site, at the end of Warren and Green Streets and adjoining Stadium Woods, was the location of a proposal two years ago by the same company to build a 666 bedroom student apartment complex. The company withdrew the proposal after hearing widespread concerns from area residents about the number of students in the neighborhood.
“I totally understand that (academic focus). However, when you put it 30 seconds from Lane Stadium, in the back of Center Street, I just feel that it’s not going to happen.”Virginia Tech student
The new proposal submitted to the Town of Blacksburg May 1 for rezoning is much smaller, with only 298 bedrooms. Chuck Carrol, vice president of development for the company, told participants at a neighborhood meeting held by the Town of Blacksburg on Tuesday evening that the company has learned its lesson from the last time.
“The one recurring theme we heard, loud and clear, from a lot of the community was that you believe that the density for that particular project was too great for the area,” Carrol said.
The new proposal, a three and four level split level apartment building, would have easy access to campus, a strategic priority for American Campus Communities according to Carrol. The site is just over half a mile from Newman Library and about a quarter of a mile from the nearest current Blacksburg Transit stop on Washington Street.
In his presentation, Carrol emphasized the proposed community’s academic focus. According to Carrol, American Campus Communities has found that it has had more success with communities that have codes of conduct written into leases and more communal study spaces. The apartment would have a live in staff member as well as three student resident community assistants.
“The new generation of student residents, based on our survey of these student residents, aren’t as concerned anymore about these huge resort style pools with lagoons and stuff like that,” Carrol said. “We’ve seen in a lot of our properties where we would have a gaming area with pool tables and foosball and Golden Tee, that the student residents will actually go in and use the pool table as a group study area.”
However, nearby residents and tenants had a number of concerns about the project. Several attendees at the meeting pointed out that the site, which is currently vacant besides a dilapidated house on Green Street, is currently the center of a thriving tailgate and party culture.
In 2007, the town reviewed and approved another plan for the site The Legends of Blacksburg. The proposal included high end one and two bedroom condos, but the development eventually fell through. Parking lots that had been constructed on the site have since been used for tailgating on football game days.
“I totally understand that (academic focus),
” said , a junior in political science who lives in the area and attended the meeting. “However, when you put it 30 seconds from Lane Stadium, in the back of Center Street, I just feel that it’s not going to happen.”
Additionally, nearby residents were concerned about the added traffic of nearly 300 more students in the area. Mary Ann Hansen, who lives in the nearby Miller Southside neighborhood and attended the meeting, says that there is already a problem with trespassers crossing private property to get between her neighborhood and the area around the proposed development.
“There’s kind of a blind spot there where you cross to get to the library, and that is a very dangerous spot. I’m afraid there’s going to be a lot more traffic there.”
Mary Ann Hansen”It’s not so bad when it’s a few people, and even we from our neighborhood, when we’re allowed to, will cut through there and get to the Huckleberry Trail,” Hansen said. “But people leave trash and they are not respectful of people’s private property. Our neighbors have found drug paraphernalia in their backyard, and this is just very unsettling.”
Many of the people who spoke at the meeting were concerned about the level of both pedestrian and car access. The proposal would put new demand on walking trails in the area, since Blacksburg Transit buses cannot fit through the neighborhood’s narrow streets, which would also struggle to accommodate the new car traffic.
“The biggest concern I would say is probably the traffic coming in and out, because there’s not a big thoroughfare coming into and out of that neighborhood,” Hansen said, pointing out that this construction would force a lot of new traffic onto Miller Street, where the Blacksburg Public Library is. “There’s kind of a blind spot there where you cross to get to the library, and that is a very dangerous spot. I’m afraid there’s going to be a lot more traffic there.”
Parking also became a major point of contention. American Campus Communities’ proposal has a parking space for 82 percent of the bedrooms in the facility, so a little under 250 spaces. At the meeting, several area residents voiced concerns over whether that would be enough for the students and their guests. If there is insufficient parking, students may choose to park in neighborhoods.
Residents raised other concerns as well, including the impact of the development on the old growth Stadium Woods and stormwater runoff.
Assuming the developer continues with the application, the next step will be a Planning Commission work session on June 20. in the Blacksburg Municipal Building. The Town Council, which would give final approving on the necessary rezoning, will likely not see the issue until at least August,
according to Blacksburg Development Administrator Kinsey O’Shea.