U parking lot sold to private developer

Jake Kapsner

Opening the door to a student housing development on the West Bank, the Board of Regents Facilities Committee voted Thursday to sell land now used as a University parking lot to private developers.
The final vote comes today when the regents as a whole decide whether to go ahead with the $314,500 sale of Parking Lot C91, located across the street from the Law School.
The University lot is the last piece of the Seven Corners block needed before Education Environments, LLC and Phoenix Land Ventures can begin developing a retail and housing complex as early as May.
With rents that will range from $468 to $865 per person in a complex with 188 units and 368 bedrooms, some University students and officials have been skeptical about the affordability of the proposed GrandMarc at Seven Corners development.
“It’s not high-end housing,” said Greg Almquist, GrandMarc president and chief operating officer.
Rather, the complex is perceived to be expensive because each renter will have amenities like a private bath, furnishings and Internet connection, he said.
But Doreen Bower, a graduate student and Seven Corners resident, called the rents “outlandish,” and unaffordable to most graduate students.
“If you want to get a four bedroom house around town for $2,400, you can get a pretty swanky place,” Bower said. “I think they’re bloodsuckers.”
A motion to sell the land was suspended last month when the regents opted to wait and discuss how the proposed complex jives with the University’s long-term student housing strategy, parking and community goals.
The University mostly supports undergraduate housing, but falls short on living space for graduate level students, said Treasurer Georgina Stephens on Thursday in response to questions raised by the board in February.
Less than 20 percent of University students live on campus and 74 percent of the 4,845 students who live in residential halls are first-year students, said Mary Ann Ryan, director of Housing and Residential Life.
New campus housing will continue to focus on undergraduates, Ryan said.
And because graduate students are the target market for GrandMarc, the deans of the Law School, Carlson School of Management and the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs have voiced support for the Seven Corners development slated to open in the fall of 2000.
Tom Youngblood was one of two condominium owners from the Riverview Towers who came to the meeting in support of the proposed development.
“The block has long been a blighted area, and this is an opportunity to bring in more business and attract better transit,” Youngblood said.
Bower concurred, in part. She said half the block, notably the radiator shop and the abandoned Nostalgia Club, have been eyesores to the area. But she added that the Washington Square Apartments have been available to students for about $500 per unit for decades.
The apartments will be razed along with the radiator shop and a building that houses the Seven Corners Grocery and Restaurante Puerta Azul.
Sgt. Preston’s Restaurant and the apartments above it will remain, Almquist said.
“We’re coming up with an allowance figure, hopefully next week,” he said, to help current renters and the Seven Corners Grocery owner with relocation costs.