Contentious Olde Towne East Project Moving Forward
Despite concerns expressed by some neighbors about its height and density, a development proposal in the heart of Olde Towne East has received a vote of approval from the Near East Area Commission and will now move on to the city’s Development Commission.
The proposal calls for a five-story building at the northeast corner of 18th and Oak streets (the fifth story is set back from the street). Similar in scale to what was originally brought before the commission in January, the building will contain 122 apartments and 2,750 square feet of ground floor retail space.
A total of 282 parking spaces – divided between surface lots and an internal parking garage – will be provided for the project.
The next step after the Development Commission, which is scheduled for November 12, is City Council.
Many neighbors have spoken out against the proposal over the last year, expressing concerns about parking and the size of the building, saying that it is out of scale with the surrounding buildings.
Currently occupying the site is the Central Seventh Day Adventist Church, a parking lot, and an empty field. The church building, most of which dates to the mid-nineties, would be demolished to make way for the new development.
Historic mixed-use buildings occupy the other three corners of the intersection, holding apartments and businesses like Yellow Brick Pizza, Olde Towne Tavern and Camelot Cellars.
“We worked very hard on the design, and we feel like it’s been a collaborative process and that we addressed a lot of the concerns,” said Matthew Vekasy, Founder & CEO of Metropolitan Holdings, the developer of the project. “They wanted us to take a floor off, but the fact is that the finance model won’t work if we do that…I wish we could do that and have it still work, but it’s just not possible.”
“We had a lot of opposition and a lot of support,” he added, pointing to a letter signed by 42 neighbors that expressed support for the project.
Vekasy said that the price point for most of the one-bedroom apartments in the project will be around $1,000 per month, although there is one larger townhome unit that will rent for over $2,300. Because the building is located within the city’s Near East Community Reinvestment Area, it will be eligible for tax abatements, and also required to provide a small percentage of more affordable units.
Even if the 18th and Oak project is approved by City Council by the end of this year, construction isn’t likely to start until the third quarter of next year, and would last about 16 months.
Metropolitan Holdings also developed the Yardley, an apartment complex located nearby that opened last fall. Vekasey said that project is now 90 percent leased and that a restaurant has expressed interest in the ground floor commercial space.