Columbia Planning & Zoning OKs student apartment project

Columbia Planning & Zoning Commission OK'd this student apartment proposal Thursday night. The building would overlook Providence Road.

Another student apartment building may go up near the MU campus after Columbia's Planning & Zoning Commission approved the project Thursday night.

The building would go on a parcel of land between Providence Road and Fourth Street, near MU's Mark Twain Hall and Lewis and Clark Halls. It would include a total of 718 beds and an attached 546-space parking garage. The land is currently occupied by a series of houses currently rented out to students.

The apartment building's potential appearance was a major source of contention at Thursday night's hearing. Virtually all of the commission members noted it would be highly visible from Providence Road and pressed the developer, American Campus Communities, on the building's exterior as well as surrounding landscaping. Columbia landowner Paul Hinshaw, who owns a nearby apartment building, said the proposal was too big for the neighborhood and crowded too many people into one place. Commission member Tootie Burns echoed Hinshaw's concerns, noting the new project, when combined with the Residences at Fifth and Conley approved last summer, would crowd almost 1,000 beds into an area that currently hosts about 200. Burns also said she was afraid the building would impede future improvements to Providence Road. She ultimately cast the sole dissenting vote.

Commission member Rusty Strodtman said the housing is needed regardless and he could not think of a better place to put it. He and other commission members said it was a relief to see a student apartment project so close to campus after so many had been built on the city limits. The commission approved the rezoning necessary to proceed with the project but urged the developer to come up with a more thorough landscaping plan. It also recommended that the city not issue any land use permits for the project until sewer and electric infrastructure in the area had been upgraded to handle the new development.

The project now heads to the Columbia City Council for review.