The Columbia City Council rejected a proposal for a luxury student housing project outside campus at its meeting on Monday, May 5. The project, rejected by a 6-1 vote, would add around 850 beds of luxury student housing to the east side of town near Highway 63 and Stadium Boulevard.
The New York-based developer Park 7 Group presented the plan, saying it was necessary to address the increasing amount of students enrolling to MU in recent years.
Park 7 first presented the project in February 2014, but it was rejected by the City Council. The developers' newest plan included a 10-acre buffer between the project and the nearby Shepard Hills neighborhood in response to concerns about the effects of the project on neighboring areas.
The Planning and Zoning commission had voted 5-3 to recommend the council approve the new project.
At the meeting on May 5, neighbors voiced divided positions about the project in terms of density and security. Two students said the housing would be too expensive and segregated.
Columbia Mayor Bob McDavid voted against the proposal. He said the project was too dense.
“We were voting too much student-housing too far from campus,” McDavid said. “We need to be focusing on the areas adjacent to campus for student housing. A lot of them exist. The University will tell you that retention rates and graduation rates are higher when students are adjacent to campus.”
Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser was the only council member that voted favorably to the proposal. She said this rejection will have consequences.
“We may not be seeing projects like this coming in the future,” said Nauser. “I think this decision sends a clear message that development outside of the downtown is not going to be welcomed.”
Mark Farnen, a partner of Park 7 Group in the rejected project, said that the City Council’s decision can have negative consequences for Columbia.
“If we do not provide housing that caters directly to the students’ needs, that makes them compete with everybody else in town for a place to live,” said Farnen. “That keeps rents for everybody artificially high and means that the goal of affordability has gone away.”
Curtis Edwards, an MU Graduate student living in West Columbia, was satisfied by the Council’s decision but said that more measures should be taken.
“We need more affordable housing options,” said Edwards. “We need to do more research to find out how much more is needed but the affordable option is what is important. Luxury? We have plenty of that.”