A proposed 124-unit luxury apartment complex off Jefferson Highway, near the upscale Bocage neighborhood, is meeting resistance from some residents and elected officials concerned with adding traffic to an already congested area.
The 3.8-acre planned development is called Tapestry Park Luxury Residences and is slated to be built behind Panera Bread. A rezoning request necessary for the development to be built goes before the Metro Council for final approval Wednesday. Supporters of the project acknowledge that traffic is a concern but say the apartment complex might be the better of two undesirable situations.
Ultimately, the land is already zoned in such a way that the developers, Alabama-based Arlington Properties, can build a smaller apartment complex along with town homes and single-family housing for a total of 105 units without requiring any public input.
The proposed plan has slightly more units, but developers argue it will have less density because 49 percent of the units will be one-bedroom and 43 percent will be two-bedroom. The target market is young professionals and empty nesters, according to a report submitted to the Metro Council.
“I know some people don’t love it, but when they consider the alternatives this is the better of those alternatives,” said David Ellis, vice president of development for Arlington Properties, before the Planning Commission at a hearing last month.
Neil Buckingham, board president of the Jefferson Place/Bocage neighborhood association, said his group opposes the development.
“Our biggest concern is the traffic impact,” he said, noting that he has yet to see a recent study of the traffic impacts to the area. “Right now, we feel a little uncomfortable, like we don’t have enough information.”
He said Jefferson Highway is already lined with apartment complexes, and the intersections surrounding Jefferson Highway and Old Hammond Highway/Corporate Boulevard are overcrowded.
Frank Duke, planning director for the city-parish, said his staff recommended the rezoning because it’s the best option for the area. He said the Metro Council can’t prevent a development from being built, short of imposing a moratorium.
Duke and his staff ultimately agreed that the apartment complex, which would be built with landscaping buffers, lighting and the agreement that the building would be pushed as far away from existing homes as possible, is a more desirable alternative than the mix of housing that the developer already has the right to build.
“There will be a slight increase in traffic but there’s no way to deny a (alternative) project that they could be allowed, by right, to build,” he said. “No one is denying that traffic is bad on Jefferson, but there are limited ways for us to mitigate traffic.”
Arlington Properties representatives did not respond to requests for an interview. But Duke and Councilman Ryan Heck, whose district the development is in, said Arlington Properties representatives haven’t said whether they would move forward with the mixed housing option if the rezoning is denied. But they said the developers have expressed interest in the option.
Some neighbors have thrown their tepid support behind the project for the sole reason that they prefer it to the unknown.
“I’d rather see them put this there than a less attractive building that’s closer to our property line,” said John Allphin to the Planning Commission last month. Allphin’s Dove Hollow Drive property abuts the proposed development.
The Planning Commission voted to support the project. But two commission members opposed it, including John Price, an assistant chief administrative officer for Mayor-President Kip Holden, who said he couldn’t support the project because of traffic concerns.
The Metro Council will have the final say. Many council members may end up taking their cue from Heck, since it’s in his district, though, he said Tuesday he doesn’t know how he’s voting.
“There are much worse alternatives than this. It’s a reputable developer and architecturally, it’s a wonderful concept,” he said. “However, many, many residents have contacted my office in opposition and at the end of the day, I’m here to speak for them.”
Mayor Pro Tem Chandler Loupe said he can’t support the project.
“Beautiful project, but you could not pick a worse spot to put it, from a traffic standpoint,” he said. “And with an intersection so close to the entrance, I don’t see any viable solutions.”