706 Mississippi River Blvd.
The Highland River Parkway Apartments proposed for 706 S. Mississippi River Blvd.

Paster Properties’ plan to construct a 91-unit, four-story apartment building at the northeast corner of Mississippi River Boulevard and Highland Parkway is being opposed by many neighbors who want to see less height and density. More than 30 people attended an August 16 meeting of the Highland District Council (HDC) Community Development Committee to review the project.

Mike Sturdivant of Paster said the intent is to start construction in early 2023 and have the building ready for occupancy in 2024. Paster plans to tear down a two-story, 16-unit apartment building it owns at 706 S. Mississippi River Blvd. and a closed, single-story First Church of Christ-Scientist building just to the south that Paster has under contract.

Neighbors concerned about building height, heating and cooling system noise, lighting, traffic and spillover parking were joined on August 16 by residents of 706 S. Mississippi River Blvd. who read on social media that their building would be torn down.

“I’m just wondering why you haven’t contacted those of us who live there,” said resident Jim Velk. “I’ve never missed my rent. Fifteen years and I’m being kicked to the curb.”

Sturdivant said notices will be up to the building’s management company once more is known about timelines for the project.

Paster, neighbors and committee members agreed to continue discussing the plans, but it is unknown when or if there will be another neighborhood meeting. The properties are already zoned for multifamily housing and no variances are being requested. The project is now undergoing city staff site plan review.

One potential sticking point is that the development site is in the Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area, which sets height limits for buildings. The new building would be almost 50 feet tall, which meets current height limits. However, the city’s proposed river corridor regulations would limit building heights to 35 feet.

 

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“I’m just wondering why you haven’t contacted those of us who live there,” said resident Jim Velk. “I’ve never missed my rent. Fifteen years and I’m being kicked to the curb.”

The city’s amended regulations are still undergoing review and will likely not be in place until at least next year. Neighbors want to see the updated regulations applied to the Paster project and pointed out that they have already been voluntarily incorporated into the Highland Bridge development two blocks away.

Some changes to Paster’s project have already been made at the neighbors’ request. A planned dog run would be moved from the east to the west side of the new building. Lighting would  be changed and additional landscaping is being considered.

Most of the comments on August 16 centered on the proposed building’s height. However, Sturdivant said a smaller building would not be financially feasible. “That’s not an area where we can compromise,” he said.

Another point of debate was where balconies would be located. Neighbors do not want them on the east and north sides of the building, overlooking single-family homes.

The U-shaped apartment building would have 6,000 square feet of space for residents’ amenities adjacent to an outdoor deck and pool. There would be two levels of underground parking with about 138 spaces.

Another issue that neighbors cited is the high water table in that area, where bedrock is 10 to 12 feet below ground level. Several neighbors said homes have had basements waterproofed and sump pumps installed. Neighbor Tom Romens said there are worries the project could divert water runoff onto neighboring properties.

Other issues that the developer must address is that part of the site was once occupied by a gas station and a large sewer line beneath the properties must be  rerouted.

— Jane McClure

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