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Major student housing project near NDSU gets planning board OK

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An artist's depiction of the housing project for North Dakota State University students planned just east of the Sanford Health Athletic Complex in the 1600 block of North University Drive. 2 / 4
The Proffutt proposal to develop the 1600 block of North University Drive includes student housing and retail space. Special to The Forum3 / 4
The Proffutt proposal to develop the 1600 block of North University Drive includes student housing and retail space. Special to The Forum4 / 4

FARGO—Plans for a $23 million student housing and retail complex next to the North Dakota State University campus, a project long in the making that concerns some neighbors, received a green light earlier this week to move on for final city consideration.

The Planning Commission approved zoning changes and other requests made by private developer Proffutt Limited Partnership.

Casey Jackson, vice president of BC Contracting, Proffutt's construction partner, said it was one of a few hurdles in front of them. "We're really looking forward to the next step, which is review by the City Commission in the next four to six weeks," Jackson said.

City planner Aaron Nelson said the project fits in with the mixed-use and infill development called for in the city's Go2030 Comprehensive Plan.

"It utilizes areas that are already served with public utilities and flood protected," Nelson said. "In addition, there's an emphasis on walkable neighborhoods."

The four-story complex would be built on the 1600 block of North University Drive, across the street from the new Sanford Health Athletic Complex.

It calls for 109 apartments with a mix of 2-and 4-bedroom units, totaling 364 beds. There would be retail space on the north end of the development and a student "club house" on the south end.

Nelson said leading up to the Planning Commission meeting Tuesday, March 7, he received a few phone calls about the project. Only one person spoke in opposition at the commission meeting Tuesday. Three people who live near the project area submitted written comments.

Most of the concerns had to do with decreasing property values, increasing numbers of rental properties, additional traffic and parking challenges.

Jonathan Olofson, who lives on 11th Street North, said some rental properties in his neighborhood have eight cars parked to a house.

"The landlord will tell you there is only three people staying there when you know there is more, and they all have a boyfriend or girlfriend there four nights of the week," Olofson wrote in an email to the city.

The North Dakota State University Foundation, the school's fundraising arm, has been buying up the single-family homes on the block for decades in hopes of developing it. That's drawn concern from neighbors who worry too many properties in the area are converting to rentals.

In December, after acquiring all but one of the properties on the block, the NDSU Foundation sought proposals for the block, picking Proffutt as the developer in December.

Under the plan from Proffutt, the 2-bedroom apartments will require 1.1 parking spaces per unit and the 4-bedroom apartments will require 2.4 parking spaces per unit. The developer is also working with the Fargo Dome Authority to pursue additional parking.

Nelson said a traffic study commissioned by Proffutt found the parking proposed was adequate.

The planning department also said it has no documentation or supporting evidence to suggest that the zoning change would adversely affect the condition or value of properties in the vicinity.

The lone remaining homeowner on the block lives at 1638 12th St. N. and did not accept an offer from the foundation, so the project will be built around the property. The foundation-owned homes would have to be demolished before construction could begin.

Jackson expects construction to start this spring or summer, with the complex being available for occupancy sometime mid-2018.

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