De­vel­op­ment draws protest from res­i­dents

Meet­ing over­flows; panel hears planned site ‘all wrong’

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - MELISSA GUTE

BEN­TONVILLE — Crystal Flats mixed-use de­vel­op­ment is a great idea but not for its pro­posed lo­ca­tion just east of down­town, res­i­dents told the Plan­ning Com­mis­sion on Tues­day.

Nearby res­i­dents of the pro­posed site on 28 acres along North­east John DeShields Boule­vard showed up in droves at the meet­ing to protest the project that in­cludes 650 res­i­den­tial units along with busi­ness, of­fice and green space.

At least 100 peo­ple filled the meet­ing room and lobby at the Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment Build­ing. About an­other 50 stood out­side the build­ing’s doors for most of the meet­ing.

Com­mon con­cerns were the build­ing heights and how the de­vel­op­ment would ex­ac­er­bate traf­fic con­ges­tion in the area, which would also de­crease the safety for chil­dren at Memo­rial Park and Or­chards Park — east and south of the site, re­spec­tively.

“The de­sign and idea are fan­tas­tic, but the lo­ca­tion is all wrong,” said Kristi Bol­stad, a res­i­dent of the near-by Glen­brook Sub­di­vi­sion.

Res­i­dents stood shoul­der-to-shoul­der along the walls of the meet­ing room. Some sat as the hear­ing neared its third hour.

Com­mis­sion­ers tabled the re­quest for a planned unit de­vel­op­ment for the project site. Com­mis­sioner Richard Binns was ab­sent.

Cindy Springs, LLC is the owner of the prop­erty. Green Cir­cle Projects, Safdie Rabines Ar­chi­tects, Polk Stan­ley Wil­cox Ar­chi­tects, Eco­log­i­cal De­sign Group and CEI En­gi­neer­ing As­so­ciates are all work­ing on the project.

Twenty per­cent of the 650 res­i­den­tial spa­ces will be ded­i­cated to work force hous­ing, the project de­scrip­tion states. Hous­ing op­tions will range from 525-square­foot stu­dios to 1,350-square­foot, three-bed­room units and town­houses.

“Crystal Flats is ba­si­cally a so­lu­tion to the hous­ing prob­lem in Ben­tonville,” Matt O’Reilly, with Green Cir­cle Projects, told com­mis­sion­ers.

Taller build­ings re­duce the struc­ture’s foot print and shrinks the im­per­vi­ous sur­face, which helps with stormwa­ter runoff as there’s more

per­vi­ous ground to ab­sorb wa­ter, O’Reilly ex­plained.

Part of the rea­sons the build­ings are so tall is the park­ing is un­der­neath them, which al­lows the de­vel­op­ment to pro­vide more green space, he added.

The project’s 41 per­cent, or 10.6 acres, of ded­i­cated green space will more than dou­ble the city’s 20 per­cent re­quire­ment.

A 75-foot-tall, six-story mixed use build­ing is pro­posed along the prop­erty’s south­ern edge, fronting North­east John DeShields Boule­vard.

It will in­clude an plaza in front and house sev­eral ser­vices, such as a cafe, fit­ness cen­ter and child­care fa­cil­ity, which will help cre­ate less traf­fic trips through the area through out the day as peo­ple can walk and bike to ser­vices, said Craig Cur­zon, with Polk Stan­ley Wil­cox Ar­chi­tects.

“To me, it just looks like a fa­cade, hid­ing what’s be­hind it,” said Ja­son Crump­ton, res­i­dent of Allen Croft sub­di­vi­sion, more than a mile north­west of the project site.

The site is also also a 4-minute bike ride or 10-minute walk to down­town, O’Reilly said.

Res­i­dents told the project’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives there won’t be as many peo­ple walk­ing and bik­ing to com­mute to places as they think. Sev­eral com­mented the re­gion’s weather is too tem­per­a­men­tal for peo­ple to com­mute in ways other than driv­ing.

Sam Sla­ton, res­i­dent on South­west 11th Street south­west of the project site, said it’s tricky to find hous­ing that’s af­ford­able near down­town, but he and his fam­ily needed to as they have one car.

He said he com­mutes on his bike “pretty much ev­ery day” and de­vel­op­ments such as this could en­cour­age peo­ple to walk and bike for trans­porta­tion more.

The de­vel­op­ment’s res­i­den­tial build­ings in­clude five 60-foot-tall, five-story U-shaped build­ings that arch in a semi-cir­cle from the prop­erty’s south­east cor­ner to the north­west cor­ner as well as two long, four-story rec­tan­gu­lar town­home build­ings that are in the mid­dle of the project.

A lap pool will sit in be­tween the two town­house build­ings. North of that but south of the other res­i­den­tial build­ings will be an out­door spo­ken word the­ater, play ar­eas and open green space. Pro­duc­tive ed­i­ble land­scape will be used through­out the de­vel­op­ment, ac­cord­ing to doc­u­ments.

Each res­i­den­tial build­ing will have green court­yard with raised plant­ing beds, ac­cess to pol­li­na­tor mead­ows and use of a food waste com­post­ing fa­cil­ity.

“The pro­posed multi-fam­ily hous­ing and com­pli­men­tary com­mer­cial uses will help the com­mu­nity achieve sev­eral ob­jec­tives, pro­vid­ing a greater va­ri­ety of hous­ing op­tions, in­creas­ing the amount of peo­ple liv­ing close to their work place, en­hanc­ing ac­cess to down­town and pro­vid­ing a va­ri­ety of trans­porta­tion op­tions,” the plan­ner’s staff re­port reads.

A traf­fic study was done in co­or­di­na­tion with the He­len Wal­ton Chil­dren’s En­rich­ment Cen­ter, which will be build­ing a new fa­cil­ity nearby on North­east J Street. The study rec­om­mends a round-a-bout be at the in­ter­sec­tion of North­east John DeShields Boule­vard and North­east J Street.

Sev­eral res­i­dents said that was a bad idea as driv­ers in North­west Arkansas don’t nav­i­gate them well.

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