A new rezoning proposal could have a significant impact on the
look and focus of the South University Avenue area.

Introduced last month by the South University Area Association,
a consortium of businesses, the proposal aims to increase the
amount of usable space for property owners in the area. If passed
by the Planning Commission and the City Council, it could lead to
more housing options and a greater variety of businesses located on
the avenue, city planner Alexis Marcarello said.

The proposal was prompted by area business’s desires to
develop beyond current regulations, Marcarello said. “Right
now, a lot of sites are already built out or are close to being as
developed as possible under current ordinances,” she said.
“They think they can handle more development.”

Currently, businesses are allowed a 200- to 300-percent ratio of
floor space to land space. This means that a business with a
1,000-square-foot plot of land can have 2,000 to 3,000 square feet
of floor area in its building.

The SUAA proposal sets a new floor-area-ratio limit of 400 to
600 percent, effectively doubling the amount of usable space for
each building.

This increase would most likely lead to larger buildings with
more stories, Marcarello said. “If (businesses) are allowed
to have bigger buildings, they will have bigger buildings,”
she said. But, Marcarello added, it is too early to know the exact
aesthetic affect of the proposal on the South University area.

The proposal also includes floor area bonuses for businesses
that offer housing amenities such as courtyards, which would most
likely lead to more housing options near campus, Marcarello said,
adding that this move would lead to an influx of new businesses.
“With more housing or even more office space, this creates a
consumer pool so a larger variety of stores can be
supported.” The added housing on South University could bring
down housing prices, Marcarello said. In addition, the close
proximity of South University to Central Campus makes it an
attractive location for students.

“It would be cool to have more apartments on South
University,” LSA sophomore John Pargament said.
“It’s right near restaurants and bars and really close
to campus. I think it would give a more urban feel to a suburban
campus.”

South University businesses said they hope that the additional
housing will bring more pedestrians to the area even when students
are on break or home for the summer.

Yercho, the owner of YCI clothing store and SUAA member who
declined to give her last name, said that business suffers when
students are away. “Christmas time, when everyone’s
happy and making money, we’re dead here. Some days we come in
half a day and some days we don’t even show up.”

Yercho said an increase in housing around the South University
area would probably lead to an increase in business during these
typically slow times.

Despite prospects for growth, Marcarello and her colleagues have
some reservations about the proposal. Primarily, more businesses
and housing could put more pressure on the road system. This could
lead to traffic congestion and parking shortages, Marcarello
said.

Another concern is with preserving the unique “look and
feel” of the area. Taller buildings would change the feel of
the avenue, and Marcarello said some might be uncomfortable with
the shift.

The proposal has a long way to go before it becomes instituted,
Marcarello said. After her office reviews the proposal, it will go
to the planning commission. The commission will take into
consideration any recommendations made by Marcarello and the city
planners when deciding whether to approve the proposal. If
approved, the proposal will go to the City Council, which will
either vote the proposal down or chose to institute it as city
code.

All things considered, Marcarello said the City Planner’s
Office is basically supportive of the proposal. “We generally
think it’s a good idea, but maybe we’re a little
hesitant to go all the way with this,” she said. “We
might like a scaled-back version.”

LSA freshman Roman Gurevich said he sees no downside to the SUAA
proposal. “I don’t think (taller buildings) would
negatively affect the appearance of South U,” he said.
“South U could use a little change because some parts of it
are a little empty and dull.”

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