Thus far the development project proposed by Carter Morris and Darren Casey has been known as the North Campus project. By any name it is a large endeavor that would add over 1,000 multifamily beds, approximately 20,000 square feet of retail and close Loquat Street. The site is located just east of the municipal water tank where Comanche Street terminates into Sessom and would continue downhill facing Sessom Drive. Its new name is Sessom Creek Community.
The $63M proposal was submitted as a planned development district (PDD), which would stand as an agreement between the city and anyone who owns the land. Details about the project are specified in the agreement, and the Morris/Casey team has included a number of adjustments to the minimum building requirements to do a better job of protecting Sessom Creek, expanding the so-called Sessom Greenspace and reducing the impact on the neighborhood. The developers and others argue that the project is ideally located based on principles of new urbanism or smart growth.
At the second public hearing, held during the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting last week, more than 30 neighbors showed up to express their rejection of the plan. While some admitted that the renderings of the buildings look fantastic, they feel that the development will in the end erode the quality of life and value of their neighborhood and significantly increase traffic. Those living very close to the project will also have the view of the structures themselves, light and sound penetrating the buffer of the greenspace.
Representatives of the SMGA and the SM River Foundation were invited to a meeting with the developers before the project went to the commissioners. We were asked for ideas on how the project could be improved. Many suggestions were offered and many ideas accepted. The design team plans to maximize watershed control elements and dedicate slightly more parkland than is required under current development codes. The land would help buffer and increase the acres owned by the public in the area of the greenspace.
SMGA has not endorsed the project but did speak out to give credit to the development team for doing a good job of hearing concerns and improving the project. Like many, we would prefer to see the natural cover of Sessom Creek, what little remains, left alone. But it has to be weighed against what the current or future owners have the right to do with their property and the lack of commitment by the community to purchase and hold the property as natural area.
As of this edition, there are two meetings scheduled for citizens to voice their concerns to the city staff and development team. The first meeting will be at the Dunbar Center between 5:30 – 7:30 on Monday, December 5, and the other on Wednesday, December 7th between 5:30 – 7:30 at the SM Recreation Hall next to the Lions tube rental facility in City Park accessed off Charles Austin Drive.
by Todd Derkacz, SMGA President