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Tempe Nixes High-Rise Student Housing

The proposed 26-story student housing high-rise at the site of the old Long Wong's was struck down by the Tempe City Council. Credit: Landmark Properties

By Sonja Haller for The Arizona Republic

As the Tempe skyline continues to grow, there is one type of high-rise that city leaders don’t want to see: student housing.

The Tempe City Council recently shot down two proposals for student housing high-rises, saying they didn’t fit the vision of downtown Tempe.

Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell said because Tempe is landlocked, every high-rise must carefully be considered. More developers are proposing office and residential structures that literally are raising the city’s profile.

The city’s general plan calls for downtown improvements that create a “financial, civic, cultural and professional hub in the region” and “create a balance of residential, commercial and educational uses.”

To that end, Mitchell said that condos, office and retail space are more preferable for downtown.

Council members rejected both high-rise student-housing proposals at a June 23 meeting, but at the same meeting unanimously approved a nine-story high-rise at University Drive and Ash Avenue that calls for luxury housing and a Whole Foods grocery store.

ASU in opposition

ASU is not a fan of student high-rises, either.

John Creer, ASU’s assistant vice president for University Real Estate Development, said in a letter to the council the development was too tall and with too many students to a room. Creer called the proposal “inconsistent with best practices for student housing.”

The university also wrote a letter opposing the Newman Center towers, again citing height.

Creer’s letter further stated that more student housing was unnecessary since “we don’t believe there is a need for student housing at this location.”

The university is building the $120M Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering Residential College on its property at the site of the old Palo Verde Main dormitory off University Drive, east of College Avenue, about a quarter mile from the designated downtown area. The seven-story building will provide 1,600 beds and plans to open in August 2017.

What the council wants

The mayor and council member Robin Arredondo-Savage said they want to see more proposals for high-rises and would consider mixed-use developments that were a combination of hotels, residences, offices and retail space.

High rises are not a problem. But who and what occupies the skyward space in downtown Tempe, which aspires to an eclectic urban core, would affect future developments for decades, they said.

Read more at The Arizona Republic

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