By Gabriela Rico for Arizona Daily Star
The developer of the Benedictine Monastery site has agreed to lower the height of the tallest proposed apartment buildings by 19 feet, protect the structure as a historic landmark and preserve a beloved avocado tree on the grounds.
But the gesture may not be enough for some who want the entire site – orchards, walking paths and quiet spaces – spared from development after the Tucson City Council’s intervention last month to begin the process of historic designation for the monastery.
The 6-acre site, at 800 N. Country Club Road, was bought by local developer Ross Rulney last year after the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration sold it to relocate to Missouri.
In a letter to the mayor and council, delivered Friday, architect Corky Poster said the new proposal would provide 222 units – the number currently allowed – to prohibit student housing and protect the monastery from demolition.
Rulney needs the city to rezone the site from its current allowable use of group dwelling, which includes student housing, and office space to multifamily housing and retail.
“It will cost the city nothing and produce property and sales tax,” Poster wrote. “Or the Mayor and Council can reject the new proposal, leaving Ross to build under current zoning, likely student housing.”
In that scenario, the architectural firm Poster Frost Mirto would bow out of the project because it specializes in historic preservation, not student housing.
The original plan featured two buildings north and south of the monastery with a height of 85 feet and a third building on the east with a height of 55 feet. The revised plan proposes two 66-foot buildings north and south and a 45-foot building on the east.
A sticking point for the city councilman who represents the area neighborhoods is that the buildings not be taller than the monastery.
Rulney and Poster say the building will be 22 and 33 feet lower than the monastery height, but Councilman Steve Kozachik said the measure of “height” should not include the cupola.
Shorter buildings would be “a conversation starter” Kozachik said, but declined to say what height he would accept.
Kozachik, who initiated proceeding with historic designation of the monastery, said the designation would apply to the whole site.
If the rezoning isn’t approved, Rulney will proceed with development of student housing, as is currently allowed.
Read more at Arizona Daily Star.
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