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Tempe Apartment Plan Shows Divide

Rendering of proposed 13-story apartment building that could be built at the northeast corner of Farmer Avenue and University Drive in Tempe. Credit: Urban Development Partners

By Chris Coppola for The Arizona Republic

A proposal that would bring a 13-story apartment building to the edge of downtown Tempe has revealed sharp divisions between business owners, residents and elected officials that go beyond the project itself.

At stake is the question of where the city should literally draw the line between dense, urban construction and traditional neighborhoods west of Farmer Avenue.

Project backers say the 13-story building, and the 281 units it would include, will be another way to draw more residents to the area, boosting local businesses and fueling the city’s vision for an urbanized downtown area where people live and work.

But opponents say the street should serve as a transition between their homes and the more intense development closer to Mill Avenue and Tempe Town Lake. They worry that such a large project will further aggravate traffic and continue to push housing costs out of reach for many.

Farmer Avenue is about two-tenths of a mile west of bustling Mill Avenue and a short walk to Town Lake, where large developments such as the State Farm multi-building complex have risen. The company says 12,000 employees eventually will work there.

The Tempe City Council has held two public hearings on the apartment proposal, but has not taken a vote. That could come after another hearing expected at the council’s April 14 meeting.

Talks continue, compromise evasive

The apartment building would add to the emerging Farmer Arts District area on the western edge of downtown Tempe north of University Drive. The city has designated the area for ongoing redevelopment. Tempe-based Urban Development Partners, which has developed other buildings along Farmer, is proposing the structure. It also is partnering with Parkway Properties on a proposed office building just to the north, also on city land. The office building, although significant, has not drawn as much opposition.

The stretch of Farmer was once an industrial area, with railroad tracks running nearby. In 2007, Tempe sought proposals to redevelop city-owned parcels along Farmer. The city’s vision then was for an apartment building with a maximum of nine stories at Farmer and University. Urban Partners is asking the city to allow four more stories.

During interviews with The Republic, both the developer and Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell, who has opposed the project with council members Robin Arredondo-Savage and Lauren Kuby, said the sides were continuing to talk, but had reached no compromise.

Read more at The Arizona Republic

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