City approves University Corners changes
Published: Thursday, June 20, 2013 at 11:46 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, June 21, 2013 at 12:07 a.m.
Late Thursday night, the City Commission approved a developer's requested changes for the long-planned but unbuilt University Corners mixed-use development at the corner of West University Avenue and 13th Street, across the street from the University of Florida.
The land-use change approved in a 4-2 vote boosted the allowable height of the three-square-block complex from eight stories and 95 feet to 10 stories and 110 feet.
The capacity of an on-site garage increased from 1,000 to 1,200 vehicles. Allowable residential development approvals went from 247 condominiums and 243 hotel/condo units to 500 apartments or condominiums and a 250-room hotel. The total building area increased from 1.185 million square feet to 1.33 million.
The vote passed 4-2 with Thomas Hawkins, Lauren Poe, Yvonne Hinson-Rawls and Susan Bottcher in support and Todd Chase and Mayor Ed Braddy in dissent. Randy Wells was absent.
Shortly before midnight, commissioners also voted 4-2 to approve rezoning for the development. Chase and Braddy also opposed the zoning change.
Debate on Thursday night focused on traffic impacts on the adjacent neighborhood and on University Avenue and 13th Street. Also of concern was the scale of the buildings.
In a reference to a late pro wrestling legend, Chase said he felt that, compared to the adjacent University Park neighborhood and the UF campus, the development was like "Andre the Giant sitting in a classroom of kindergartners."
Poe said the project was the type of mixed-use, dense, walkable and bikeable development that city policy pushed for near UF.
A report on how many vehicle trips University Corners would generate was submitted for Thursday's commission meeting, showing an initial count of 9,629 daily trips from the project.
But the formula then uses projected bicycle, pedestrian and bus traffic numbers — and credit for the prior development on the site, which was razed several years back to make way for University Corners — to whittle the daily vehicle impact from new development to 5,573 trips.
The plans previously approved in 2007 for an eight-story development were projected to generate a little more than 5,000 new vehicle trips.
Poe said the commission had, in his experience, not turned down a project because of traffic.
"If it was going to happen, it was going to happen with Butler Plaza going from 12,000 (daily vehicle trips) to 36,000," Poe said.
The City Commission delayed the land-use vote in early May over concerns about the scale of the building.
Among the developer changes in the plan approved Thursday were:
* Breaking the development into three separate buildings to create "three distinct blocks." Elevated pedestrian bridges would link the buildings.
* Along University Avenue, the building height would begin at eight stories and 89 feet and, moving north, gradually rise to nine floors and then 10 floors and 110 feet.