Business
12:52 am
Thu February 16, 2012

APC Rejects Boiler Cribs Complex Proposal

Purdue student and lifetime West Lafayette resident Cory Brewer says not moving forward with the project called 'The Landmark' hinders the future of his home and college town. 

"The Landmark will be a game changer," he said.  "The Landmark will be the first step in our dream, our dream together.  It's your time to dream where we want West Lafayette to be.  It's your time to make your mark."

Brewer was one of about a half dozen people who spoke in favor of the project last night before the Area Plan Commission rejected it by a 13-to-one vote.

The Landmark proposal calls for a six-story mixed-use complex featuring 250-apartments and retail space, including a C-V-S pharmacy and grocery store.

The plan includes 295 parking spaces, which is about 155 less than what Area Plan Commission staff say is necessary.

“Staff was open to all sorts of options to try to overcome this deficit," said APC assistant director Ryan O'Gara.  "But, the peticioner decided to end negotiations, sort of insisting his parking program, as is, was sufficient for the project.  At the point that negotiations ended, staff was essentially in a position to recommend denial for the project, which  we did.”

Boiler Cribs is the company looking to construct the  development along Northwestern Avenue.  Owner Marc Muinzer says it would be one of the largest projects in the city with an estimated cost of around $50-million.

He says the size and scope of the development will benefit not only students, but the majority of West Lafayette residents and thinks halting that type of project is doing the community a disservice.

“That current sight, $100,000 a year in real estate taxes, once developed, $600,000, $700,000, $800,000,  maybe $1-million in real estate taxes.   This makes big waves, this project does," he said.  "We can talk about jobs, construction jobs.  We can talk about permanent jobs with the retail.   There is a big story here people.  There is a real opportunity here.”

Muinzer says the development will have about point-three-six parking spaces for every resident, which is more than comparable complexes at other Big Ten universities. 

And Architect Tom Pope says part of the purpose of The Landmark is to make students less dependent on vehicles.   Pope has worked on similar projects in college towns in Ann Arbor, Michigan and Champaign, Illinois.

He sees The Landmark as a way to improve the overall community feel.

“A lot of things were said early on in support letters mainly by students where they see where the trend is going and the fact that younger people don't want a care, they want a more pedestrian friendly campuses and more opportunities to them  in the way of on-sight retail and other amenities that are accessible by foot.”

However, not everyone sees it that way.  Opponents, such as County Councilman and area resident Andy Gutwein believe the development would be too overbearing in the community and do more harm than good.

In terms of parking, those against the project say it would open the door to a more convoluted community.

"Compare it to the block that would be immediately east, that project holds ten houses," he said.  "This project is two times as tall, two-and-a-half times as dense, plus retail space, 600 beds versus 30 beds, it's inadequate parking and it's a block from our neighborhoods and schools.  What's wrong with this project? Plenty."

They argue the location is already one with heavy amounts of traffic and believe having even more vehicles would mean added safety risks.

Area Plan Commission President Roland Winger says those concerns are why members voted the plan down.  He believes there will be development in that space in the future, but says there were too many concerns with the Landmark Project to move forward.

“I think, yes, there will be development (to) come and I think those smart developers are going to do so in ways that are more amenable to the current conditions and working to blend those in rather than try to sell massive change all in one step," he said.  "I think the specifics were there.  I think that was its problem.  It was just very bold.”

Boiler Cribs will take their proposal to the West Lafayette city council which will have the final vote.

One member who won’t support it is district two councilman Peter Bunder, who spoke out against The Landmark, Wednesday.

He represents some of the neighborhoods adjacent to the proposed project.  Bunder says he is not against development in the area, but thinks this particular project is not the right fit.

"Criticism begins with the parking issue, but that is only the gateway to all of our community concerns," he said.  "I like the name Landmark.  I hope it will be a landmark in our discussion of development along with Fowler-Northwestern corridor.  But, to approve this plan now would represent a landmark failure in urban planning.”

Despite the lack of support from Bunder, Muinzer believes he will be able to get other council members to rally around the project and turn it into a reality.

"I think this vote has always been meant for the city council," he said.  "We're optimistic about it.  We certainly have some work to do, but we're excited to get this in front of the city council and think that's where the decision lies."