University-area group rejects offer on student-housing complaints

Owners of District propose payment, plus other actions
2013-03-18T00:00:00Z University-area group rejects offer on student-housing complaintsDarren DaRonco Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 18, 2013 12:00 am  • 

An olive branch recently extended to West University residents by the new owners of a massive student housing project near North Fourth Avenue that quickly gained a reputation for loud parties has been rejected.

Residents say the offer from the owners of The District on 5th didn't conform to what was originally promised by its previous owner.

The past owner, Campus Apartments Inc., had promised residents a noise wall, neighborhood speed humps and restrictions on outdoor pool parties to make the neighborhood more livable.

The current proposal was designed to address neighborhood concerns over the 764-bed, 208-unit student-housing complex, which they say has become a magnet for loud parties and traffic since it opened last August.

EdR, the Memphis, Tenn.-based company that bought The District, 550 N. Fifth Ave., informed residents last month it wasn't going to install speed bumps or any other measures agreed to by the previous owner.

EdR, however, reconsidered and a few weeks ago sent a letter to the West University Neighborhood Association stating it would install a few speed bumps on the property, place stricter rules on tenants and pay the neighborhood association a lump sum of $32,500 so it could apply the money toward speed bumps or other traffic mitigation measures.

Residents balked at the idea, and association members voted recently to reject the one-time payment.

It's unfortunate the association turned down the offer, said Susan Jennings, EdR's vice president of corporate communications and marketing.

"We are disappointed to learn that the West University Neighborhood Association has declined our offer to accelerate our planned payments of the remaining grant monies from their legal agreement with the developer," Jennings wrote in an email. "We believe the $32,500 lump-sum payment could have gone far to add the neighborhood traffic control measures that would address many of their complaints."

The money is tied to historic preservation, not traffic control, WUNA President Chris Gans said.

"If EdR doesn't want to honor their verbal commitments ... that they would work and help fund some traffic mitigation, that's their business if they don't want to do that," Gans said. "But it's not any neighborhood's job to fix traffic problems created by either city planning or the developer."

Jennings said EdR is still committed to being "a good neighbor within this community and fulfilling our legal obligations." But she said her company isn't aware of any legal agreements other than the one requiring annual payments for historical preservation and the promise to not tear down a couple of historic homes.

Broken promises will only hamper future developments, said City Councilman Steve Kozachik, who helped broker the original deal between the developer and neighbors.

"We're talking about a company that just made an investment of over $60 million. I think they can afford a few traffic circles and speed bumps without crushing their bottom line. One would hope that their reputation is worth more than fighting over this," Kozachik said. "Lessons like this will just make it more difficult for the next developer in line."

EdR isn't the only party to blame when it comes to failing the neighbors, Kozachik said. The city has also dropped the ball on this issue, he added.

"City staff has made a commitment to the neighborhood to help finance and build some traffic-calming devices," Kozachik said. "So the burden falls on both the city and on EdR to get this done before somebody's severely injured by the traffic."

Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or ddaronco@azstarnet.com. On Twitter @DarrenDaRonco.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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