ANC questions AU's Campus Plan

Neighbors and local commissioners told AU administrators they were not satisfied with changes being made to the Campus Plan at an Advisory Neighborhood Commission meeting Thursday night.

AU Chief of Staff David Taylor gave a presentation to the ANC board, the first time AU administrators have officially presented on the Campus Plan to ANC 3D. Taylor said that priorities for the AU Campus Plan include the following, among others:

  • undergraduate student housing
  • a new law school facility
  • improved athletics facilities
  • new admissions and alumni welcome centers

ANC commissioners and residents feel that the plans to develop an “East Campus” on the Nebraska Parking Lot with dorm and retail buildings are still too intrusive on their neighborhoods, even after changes made to mitigate its impact on the neighborhood, they said.

“After talks and meetings with the people of Wesley Heights, we don’t see the plan as getting better,” said ANC 3D 01 Commissioner Elizabeth Sandza. “Can you please be more responsive than you have been?”

One resident of Wesley Place stood up in the meeting and objected to AU’s plans to build on the Nebraska Parking Lot, saying students would be able to look into her bedroom window.

Residents of Westover Place have hired a lawyer to deal with their problems with the Campus Plan, according to ANC 3D 06 Commissioner Ann Heuer. ANC Commissioners discussed hiring a lawyer through ANC funds, but they did not all agree. The amount in the ANC 3D budget they could use to hire a lawyer is about $20,000.

“We’re not going to get a whole lot of lawyer for only $20 grand,” ANC 3D 04 Commissioner Stuart Ross said.

ANC 3D 08 Commissioner Lee Minichiello said there are concerns about traffic congestion, which is already significant around the area of the corner of Nebraska Avenue and New Mexico Avenue. He and his constituents do not want retail on that corner to further hinder the flow of traffic, he said.

Minichiello also asked whether the buildings — now planned to be six stories tall — could be lowered by adding levels underground.

Taylor said housing has been an issue on campus, where there are currently 200 to 300 triple rooms housing students. The net number of students AU is trying to house on campus through the campus plan is 1,400, Taylor said.

The East Campus site would hold about 860 students, according to Taylor, and there will be four buildings for mixed use, including retail. There will also be underground parking on that site to hold 300 cars. The Nebraska Parking Lot currently has 870 parking spots.

Taylor also stressed that AU has become a positive addition to this neighborhood.

“It’s no secret that AU is surrounded by neighborhoods,” he said. “AU is a much prettier place to walk around.”

Ross wants to find the best path to a successful plan for AU and its neighbors, he said.

“It is palpable that there is an awful lot of tension between these parties right now,” Ross said. “We’re in this together. AU is going to be here and we’re going to be here.”

mfowler@theeagleonline.com

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