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MILL TOWN ON THE RISE
Flagstaff zoning commission approves Mill Town height increase, rent by room

A zoning change that would pave the way for the latest massive student housing complex in Flagstaff was unanimously endorsed by citizen planners Wednesday and sent to the city council for final approval.

In addition, the 1,221-bedroom Mill Town housing and commercial complex on Milton Road received from the Flagstaff Planning and Zoning Commission a height variance to 93 feet from 65 feet for 20 percent of its buildings and permission to rent by the bedroom

Commissioner Marie Jones, who fought the 591-bed Hub as a Southside neighborhood leader last year, said she liked that Mill Town would not be in an existing neighborhood, unlike some other large housing developments that have received pushback from the community.

“It’s a tradeoff to go a little higher, but there is some natural area preserved,” she said, referring to a parcel on the west side of Beulah Boulevard that the developer, Vintage Partners, has set aside as open space.

Jones said the area where the development is to be built has been identified as an acceptable place for large scale development, and said the mixed use portion could create a neighborhood feel.

Courtesy of Vintage Partners 

An artist's rendering shows the view of the Mill Town mixed-use housing development from Milton Road. 

Nine members of the public addressed the commission at the meeting Wednesday afternoon, with people voicing opinions both for and against the development.

Those who opposed the development referenced the large size of the mixed-use building, and expressed worry that renting by the bedroom would drive up the costs of housing in the city.

Marilyn Weissman, one of the members of the public to speak at the meeting, said she believes large-scale student housing developments are incompatible with Flagstaff.

“When are we going to say enough is enough?” she said. “We are using limited developable land for temporary residents.”

Michael Amundson, who also spoke against the project, said developers should build to the height allowed in the zoning code.

“Why can’t people build things to the laws we have?” Amundson said. “Please, build it to what we ask for you.”

At the highest point, the rooftop bar, the building will be 40 percent higher than the zoning limit allows.

Daniel Williamson, who also addressed the commission during the public comment period, said he liked the project because it may move students out of neighborhoods and free up some rental housing for other residents.

Jeff Meilbeck, the CEO of the Northern Arizona Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority, which operates Mountain Line buses, spoke in favor of the project. It will sit along three bus routes and will provide bus passes for residents.

“We at NAIPTA conclude the Mill Town project is important and want it to proceed,” he said.

Along with extending Beulah Boulevard and realigning University Avenue, the project is also to include an underpass beneath Milton Road for pedestrians and bicycles.

Courtesy of Vintage Partners 

An artist's rendering shows the residential mixed use buildings in the proposed Mill Town development.

A ROOFTOP LOUNGE

Vintage is seeking a rezoning on the property to the “highway commercial” zone, which is the zoning of many of the surrounding parcels. The commission recommended the council approve the zoning change. The commission has the authority to grant or deny conditional use permits, which is what Vintage sought for the height and rental structure. However, the council will have to approve the zoning change request for the height allowance to be applicable.

Most of the parcel is now zoned public facility, to accommodate the ADOT offices.

The mixed use building will contain 1,221 bedrooms, which will be marketed to students.

The highway commercial zone allows a maximum height of 60 feet, or 65 feet if a developer chooses to use a pitched roof, City Planning Manager Tiffany Antol said. The tallest point on the proposed Mill Town building is slightly over 93 feet -- a rooftop lounge on top of the parking garage.

Antol said less than 20 percent of the building will exceed the 65-foot limit.

The project is proposed to be built between Milton Road and Beulah Boulevard, on the site which is now the Arizona Department of Transportation office.

The portion of the mixed use building, which has ground floor commercial uses with residential spaces above, that faces Milton Road also exceeds the height limit, due to a slope on the property that lowers the elevation of the land, meaning if the building is to keep a consistent roofline, it must be taller.

Antol said Vintage and the city did parking studies about the project, and determined the residential component would need 0.77 parking spaces per bedroom. Vintage has proposed 0.79 spaces per bedroom, with 965 total parking spaces. The commercial component will have 198 parking spaces, which is what is required by code.

The commercial component of the development includes pad for three free-standing commercial units, which are expected to contain a small grocery store, a drive-through restaurant and another commercial space. The mixed use building will also have ground floor commercial uses. The rooftop bar will only be accessible through the commercial portion of the building, said Carolyn Oberholtzer, an attorney representing Vintage. People living in the building who wish to go to the bar will have to enter through the commercial side and will be subject to age verification.

An artist's rendering shows the proposed underpass beneath Milton Road. 

PHASE 3 OF PARTNERSHIP

Mill Town is the third phase of a public-private partnership between the city, the Arizona Department of Transportation, Harkins Theaters and Vintage Partners, which has included building a new Harkins Theaters building near the Flagstaff Mall, and will include converting the old Harkins building on Woodlands Village Boulevard into a new ADOT facility. Once ADOT is moved, Vintage is tasked with extending Beulah Boulevard and realigning University Drive to remove the disconnection on either side of Milton.

In exchange for realigning the streets and relocating the ADOT facility, Vintage will receive two parcels, one owned by ADOT on Milton and University and the other owned by the city directly behind the ADOT parcel, to develop.

Once the roads are aligned, there will be a roundabout installed at the intersection of Beulah, University and Yale Street, which will replace an existing three-way stop intersection.

The Flagstaff City Council will hold its first hearing about the project at its March 6 meeting.


Courtesy of Vintage Partners 

An artist's rendering shows the residential mixed use buildings in the proposed Mill Town development.


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Basis Flagstaff teacher caught up in Olympics during home visit to Korea

While the world had its eyes on South Korea for a few weeks last month to watch the best winter athletes from across the world compete, Flagstaff resident Juhee Park was back in her home country for the first time in about 17 years.

Park and her family moved from South Korea to Michigan when she was young, and she moved to Flagstaff after receiving a scholarship to Northern Arizona University’s music program. After a hand injury left her unable to complete some of the more strenuous piano practices required for a major, she ended up receiving a graduate degree in math and now teaches at Basis Flagstaff.

Park also plays as an accompanist for some local churches and the Master Chorale of Flagstaff.

She traveled back to South Korea in February to attend a wedding, not to see the Olympics, but said the airport was full of travelers eager to see the games.

“It was really interesting being there,” Park said. “Everywhere we went, the Olympics were on.”

Figure skater Yuna Kim was the country’s most recent Olympics superstar, and since she stopped competing at the Olympics the country has been looking for new breakout stars, Park said. The women’s curling team became popular this year, because many in the country had never heard of the sport, and the team had very little time to practice before the games, Park said.

The South Korean women ended up earning the silver medal, which came as a surprise to the whole country, she said.

“Curling got really famous,” Park said. “People didn’t really know about the sport before.”

One of the Korean couples in figure skating used a traditional Korean song, which Park said was a hit with local fans.

Park cheers for both the United States and Korean teams, and she had some funny moments when people in Korea saw her cheer out loud for an American team.

With much of the focus on North and South Korea competing as one team, Park said South Korean people are divided on the issue.

“Some people really loved it,” she said. “They say sometime soon the countries should unite. But on the other end, people say why should we do this when North Korea is threatening us?”

In her experience, it has seemed like the older generations who may know people who are still in North Korea seem to be the ones who favor uniting the countries, while younger people, who might only have distant relatives in North Korea, seem like they are less supportive of unification.

When she was visiting South Korea, she asked her boyfriend’s aunt what it was like living so close to North Korea while there are so many threats.

The aunt told her that the perception around the world is that the South Korean people are really calm, despite the threats, but really, people are very worried about it.

Park said she worries about her relatives, but the Korean peninsula is so small, an attack from North Korea on South Korea would hit and harm North Korea, too.

Park runs the Korean Club at Basis, where they learn about different aspects of Korean culture, like the popular K-pop music and watch Korean TV shows and movies. Members of the club learn Korean writing characters and some basics of the language.


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Two arrested in east Flagstaff homicide

Abraham Puentes Ortiz

Adonis Encinas Velarde

Two Flagstaff men were arrested Thursday after a woman was shot and killed Wednesday night in east Flagstaff, Flagstaff Police Department officials said.

Kinsey Beebe, 19, was found shot and in critical condition Wednesday night when officers responded to a call about shots fired near the 1900 block of east Arrowhead Avenue at approximately 11:30 p.m., Flagstaff Police spokesman Sgt. Cory Runge said in a press release.

Beebe was transported to Flagstaff Medical Center, where she died of her injuries.

Approximately half an hour after Beebe was found shot, police receive another call of shots fired in the area of North Sanford Place and North Miranda Way, Runge said. Police determined it had been a drive-by shooting at an occupied residential structure, but no one was injured.

At 2 a.m. Thursday, Adonis Encinas Velarde, 20, turned himself in and was arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder, kidnapping, disorderly conduct with a weapon, discharging a weapon in city limits, drive-by shooting of an occupied structure, and assisting a criminal street gang, Runge said.

Velarde told police he witnessed the murder of Beebe and was the person who fired the gun in the drive-by shooting, Runge said.

At approximately 8:45 a.m. Thursday, Abraham Puentes Ortiz, 22, was found and arrested at the 700 block of South Blackbird Roost. He was arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder, kidnapping, disorderly conduct with a weapon, discharging a weapon in city limits, drive-by shooting of an occupied structure, and assisting a criminal street gang, Runge said.

Ortiz told police he shot Beebe three times and drove the vehicle in the drive-by shooting, Runge said.

The men allegedly told police they had been drinking with Beebe at the 1900 block of east Arrowhead Avenue. During their time there, the men went outside and fired one shot from an altered Ruger handgun with the serial number removed, Runge said.

Beebe confronted the men about the shooting because there were other people inside the house. The men then placed the gun inside the home and went for a walk. When they returned, they found out Beebe had hidden the gun. The three got in an argument and Beebe made a phone call, Runge said.

Ortiz, who was armed with a Glock handgun, shot Beebe in the head and neck three times, Runge said.

The men fled the scene in a minivan, which had an AR-15 rifle inside, Runge said. Velarde fired a gun at an occupied structure during the drive away from where Beebe was murdered.

Velarde then fled from Ortiz because he believed Ortiz would kill him next, Runge said. Velarde then surrendered himself to police.

When police located Ortiz, he was armed with a Glock handgun and police located an AR-15 in his residence.

Police believe they have arrested all suspects in the case and there is no ongoing threat to the public, Runge said.