Early plans for the commercial and student housing project called Mill Town, planned to be built on Milton Road and University Avenue, include 1,221 beds geared toward Northern Arizona University students, commercial use along Milton and a Milton Road pedestrian underpass.
The plans were revealed at the first community meeting about the project, which is required when a developer is requesting a zoning change for the parcel.
The project is proposed to contain 340 total apartments, with capacity ranging from one to five bedrooms. The developer, Vintage Partners, has applied for a conditional use permit asking the city to allow it to rent by the bedroom instead of by the unit. The project will also contain 965 parking spaces for residents and about 209 parking spaces for the customers of the commercial portions, including part of the parking garage that will be open to customers.
About 50 community members attended the meeting, voicing concerns about parking and the amount of traffic the project could generate on the already congested Milton Road.
Vintage has also requested a conditional use permit to allow a taller building than would be allowed in the zoning category they are requesting. The proposed Mill Town building has a maximum height of 95 feet, which would be for a rooftop bar above the center parking garage. The pitched roofs at the top of the building reach a height of 82 feet.
At the meeting, some community members expressed concern with the height and density of the building, and asked if there is a limit on the height an applicant can request when applying for a conditional use permit.
City Planning Director Dan Folke said there is not a maximum height limit an applicant can request, but the planning department can recommend that the Planning and Zoning Commission deny a conditional use permit if the department does not think the building is appropriate.
At the meeting, Walter Crutchfield, one of the partners with Vintage, said the proposed location for Mill Town is good for high–occupancy housing and taller buildings, because it does not infringe on existing historic neighborhoods.
“If there were a place to increase density, this is the place to do it,” he said. “If you’ve identified this as a great place for student housing, it serves the interest of the entire city to put the density here.”
By adding the supply in an area that is already full of hotels and apartments, Crutchfield said the project “adds supply where supply should be.”
The project is the third phase of a three-way public-private partnership between the city of Flagstaff, the Arizona Department of Transportation and Vintage Partners. The first phase of the project was constructing the new Harkins Theatres near the Flagstaff Mall; the second phase, which is in progress, will be converting the old Harkins Theatres on Woodlands Village Boulevard into a new ADOT headquarters; and the third phase, Mill Town, will be tearing down the old ADOT building on Milton and creating the commercial and residential development, as well as realigning University Avenue, bringing the side west of Milton south to line up with the side east of Milton, south of the Target. Beulah Boulevard will also be extended to connect with Yale Street.
The alignment of University Avenue and the extension of Beulah Boulevard was included in a voter-approved transportation tax that was approved in 2000, City Planning Development Manager Tiffany Antol said. The city and ADOT issued a request for proposals for the project in 2012, and Vintage was chosen as the developer in 2013. The city has committed $7.37 million to paying for the street improvements associated with the project, City Engineer Rick Barrett said at the meeting. The partnership allows Vintage to seek a rezoning on property it does not own, with the land for the Mill Town project belonging to the city and to ADOT.
The Planning and Zoning Commission is the governing body for the two conditional use permits, but the applicant could appeal a decision to the city council. The council will have the final say on the rezoning request.
However, if the zoning change and the conditional use permits are not approved, Crutchfield said the road improvements will not happen.
Antol said it is too early to determine when the case will be heard by the Planning and Zoning Commission and later by the city council, and said she had submitted her first round of comments on the plans back to Vintage, and is waiting on their responses and updates.
In an effort to mitigate traffic impacts, Crutchfield said Vintage was proposing several “innovative ideas” with the plan, which include a pedestrian underpass at Milton Road, and “bus only” lanes on Beulah Boulevard and University Avenue.
“We think we are bringing some really cutting-edge solutions,” Crutchfield said. There are no “bus only” lanes in the city so far, and Crutchfield said Vintage and the Northern Arizona Intergovernmental Transportation Authority are still in talks about how the implementation would work and if it can be put in place in Flagstaff.
More than 5,000 NAU students live on the west side of Milton and have to cross the road somehow to get to school from their apartments, Crutchfield said.
“This should have been proposed a long time ago,” he said, adding that the improved pedestrian access could cut down on the number of vehicle trips crossing Milton, both from the Mill Town project as well as from other apartments and hotels on the west side of the road.
PROJECTS AROUND THE CITY
Vintage Partners is also the developer creating the Timber Sky subdivision, which will be located at Woody Mountain Road and Route 66. The subdivision will contain 1,300 residential units, including condominiums, duplexes, townhomes and single-family detached homes.
One hundred of the homes in Timber Sky will be designated for affordable housing, which will be maintained through a land trust program.
The development on Country Club Drive and Soliere Avenue that includes hotels, retail space and residential space is also a Vintage project. That project faced a setback last month when the city council chose not to move forward with a tax incentive that would allow Vintage to recapture some of the sales tax generated by commercial use on the project to pay for the realignment of Soliere Avenue.
Vintage will be holding a second community meeting regarding the Mill Town project on Monday, June 26, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the ADOT training facility, located at 1901 S. Milton Road. The meeting is open to the public.