University City student apartments draw opposition from neighbors, Charlotte staff

A rendering of the University City Boulevard apartments proposed by Haven Campus Communities.
A rendering of the University City Boulevard apartments proposed by Haven Campus Communities.

Neighbors and city staff are opposing a plan to build hundreds of new apartments for students across from UNC Charlotte, and some City Council members were also skeptical at a hearing on the proposal Monday.

The plan from Atlanta-based Haven Campus Communities would allow up to 349 student housing apartments on a 6.8-acre site on University City Boulevard at Suther Road. The apartments would be built at a density of 51 units per acre. That’s more than double the recommended density for the area in the University City Area Plan, a major reason city staff are recommending City Council vote against the project.

“What I see in the current state right now is such a broad deviation that it’s going to be difficult for me to support it,” said city council member Greg Phipps, who represents the area. He also said he is concerned about the amount of student housing under development. “We are inundated with student housing product...We are gurgling in this type of project.”

The developers said they will work on reducing the size of the proposal, but also pointed out that the city approved the Circle University apartments down the street at a similar density. They also point to the university’s rapid growth and the need for more places for students to live.

“We feel this is an appropriate use in an appropriate location,” said Keith McVean, a land-use attorney representing the developers. “If you don’t build it here, there’s still that demand...It’ll be further away, they’ll have to use their cars.”

Local resident Theron Hobbs said neighbors oppose the development because its density and scale would “violate the integrity of our community.” There would be up to 900 residents in the apartment building, he said, and the development would violate deed covenants on the property barring anything but single-family houses.

“This project is proposing the change of land usage...intruding into our existing neighborhood,” said Hobbs. “It’s abrupt and intrusive, and our residents are very much against this proposal.”

Some neighbors are skeptical of the impact of more UNC Charlotte students moving in to the area.

“College Downs has felt the impact of the university’s enormous growth over the past decade,” said Meg Morgan, of the neighborhood association. “They urinate on lawns...they run naked, which we have seen, or half-naked, which we’ve also seen, up and down our streets, and they fight with other party-goers.”

Charlotte City Council will vote on the proposal at a later meeting, possibly as soon as next month.

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo