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West University Assn. OKs deal on student housing at YMCA site

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The West University Neighborhood Association and a student-housing developer have agreed to terms that pave the way for a 756-room dorm-style complex at the old YMCA site near Fourth Avenue.

The agreement, which neither side would discuss Friday, calls for the developer to preserve two houses that will act as a buffer between the proposed apartments and the neighborhood. In exchange, the neighborhood will withdraw its opposition to the project, called The District, slated to be built at the site of the old YMCA building.

Before the agreement, the neighborhood had formally started the process to appeal the development, and City Councilman Steve Kozachik said he talked to the developer and encouraged the company to compromise.

Neighborhood representatives said they didn't want to talk about the terms until the agreement with the developer is signed, even though they openly discussed the deal at a neighborhood meeting Thursdaynight.

"I don't want to take any chance at compromising the deal," said Noah Sensibar, a West University resident.

Representatives from Valeo Cos., the developer of the proposed project, were unavailable Friday for comment on the agreement. They have previously said the complex will have five stories of furnished apartments, rented by the bedroom for about $500 per month, with a resort-style pool, a coffee bar and other student amenities.

Valeo agreed to pay the neighborhood association $25,000 up front, plus $2,500 a year for 15 years, resident Richard Mayers said at the meeting, in addition to preserving the two buffer houses for at least 15 years. The money will go toward rooftops on other historic homes in the neighborhood.

Residents at the meeting described the deal as the best they could get. Mayers told the group they did not have support from the City Council to fight the project, and there was always the possibility of a bigger project in the future. Other residents said preserving the homes will keep a buffer between the neighborhood and the project.

"I've been talking to both groups since the thing began. It started out as a wholly unacceptable project," Kozachik said. "It really has evolved. Now a builder has shown an ability to work with a neighborhood."

This proposed project could be a model for other neighborhoods near campus, he said.

"It's an example of a project where both parties made some compromises, and I'm glad we finally have an example of some student housing that can take the mini-dorm pressure off neighborhoods," Kozachik said.

Some students said they could see how a neighborhood might object to a student-housing complex with hundreds of rooms for rent.

UA freshman Jenna Massey compared the housing development to her UA dorm being in a neighborhood, instead of on campus.

"I would feel horrible if we lived near someone," she said.

"Kids are loud," which sometimes means disruptions or the police show up, said Giana Siska, also a UA freshman.

The proposed site, 550 N. Fifth Ave., is at North Fifth Avenue and East Sixth Street. It's a half-mile from campus and a block from North Fourth Avenue and the future streetcar line there.

"We need to find room on the arterials for these kinds of things just so they're not being built in the middle of a neighborhood. That's the problem in Jefferson Park," Kozachik said.

Contact Josh Brodesky at jbrodesky@azstarnet.com or 573-4242. Contact Andrea Kelly at akelly@azstarnet.com or 807-7790.


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