University City

Neighbors worry about UNCC's reach

For years, UNC Charlotte drew in Ken Burrow and other College Downs residents to enjoy arts programs and other campus events.

Now the university's growth is causing it to spill out into the community, especially for student housing and free parking.

Cars are often lined up along Sandburg Avenue in nearby College Downs as students find ways to avoid parking fees on campus.

Many of the homes in College Downs are rented to female students. They tend to spend little time tending to their lawns, said Burrow, a resident for more than 30 years.

Now Crescent Resources wants to build 225 apartments for students as well as commercial space on 4.5 acres beside the entrance to College Downs, at University City Boulevard and Mark Twain Road.

The proposed development, tentatively called Circle University City, would likely increase traffic from about 500 vehicle trips per day to more than 4,700 per day, local transportation officials estimate.

Burrow and many others in College Downs have begun to feel trampled upon.

"It is going to have a major impact, which can only make a bad situation worse," Burrow said.

Growth at the university, which now has more than 25,000 students, has created more demand for student housing.

Circle University City is within walking distance, and that would reduce student commutes and reliance on cars, said Tim Dison, vice president at Crescent.

The commercial space proposed for the same site, now at 10,000 square feet, also is intended to reduce car travel, Dison said.

"We are proposing a very high-quality student housing development across the street from the university's main entrance," Dison wrote in an email.

The Charlotte City Council ultimately will have a large part in shaping the future of one of University City's oldest subdivisions, built to provide housing near work for faculty and staff members.

The council ultimately must decide whether to rezone what is now the site of Chateau Villa Apartments to make way for the development.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Department has recommended the council approve the rezoning with some changes to the plan.

The staff suggested changes to make the project more compatible and integrated with adjoining neighborhoods.

Crescent's plan calls for multiple buildings, parking decks, a clubhouse and pool. Some of the buildings would be four stories tall.

"There is a huge concern about the height," said Sylvia Nance, president of the College Downs Community Association. "The second concern is the Mark Twain (Road) issue. That's the sacred cow."

Mark Twain Road is the main entrance to the subdivision. Magnolias and crape myrtles grow in the median. Residents don't want to lose those.

Dison said Crescent recognizes the concern over the median and plans to work with residents.

"We want to stay neighborly," Nance said. "Anything that threatens that neighborly, family residential feel concerns us."