For decades, Cedar Falls' traditional neighborhoods have pushed back against the tide of single-family-to-rental conversions. Councils have tried occupancy restrictions, nuisance expansions, enforcement, people-carrying-capacity calculations, moratoriums, conversion incentives and so on. While the actions are noble in their intent, the impact is hardly discernible. Added residential density around the University is the surest solution for traditional neighborhood concerns.
Cedar Falls has a supply dilemma, or lack thereof. The market sends signals, investors respond by converting available single family properties to rentals. The 2119 College Street development is a beacon of hope in the long neighborhood struggle for balance. It would add 83 dwelling units and 120 beds on less than a city block. Simple math yields a dramatic impact. 120 bedrooms equates to approximately 40 single family housing units (assuming a 3 person per house average), the equivalent of 5 city blocks of single family rentals. This is an extraordinary number and would surely stem the tide of rental conversion, it may even reverse the decades long conversion trend. Further, it would also behoove us to compare the taxable density of this project versus any subdivision in the city. This is a high-value, in-demand development.
There are two commonly cited objections: (1) primary use; and (2) parking. On 'use', the code is ambiguously flexible. Yet, staff is concise and correct in their approval recommendation. Any other conclusion would ignore precedent and the urban development potential of commercial zoning. In this zone, parking isn't required in the development. It is voluntarily included as an amenity versus an arbitrary mandate. The code works and allows for the highest and best use of property with context of its use and surroundings.
It is logical to conclude parking demands will increase in the surrounding area, a sign of vitality. To support the commercial area, parking policies and strategies should be evaluated to ensure maximum turnover to support patron visits to area businesses. I would suggest a blend of 30 minute, 1 hour and 2 hour parking. In the residential areas, policy should discourage long-term vehicle storage and be easily enforceable. This is best achieved through alternate day parking where violators stick out like old jalopies.
With slight public parking policy changes (low-cost, easy to implement), this development will mainly attract tenants with light vehicular needs. To posit that every tenant needs a parking space is as ridiculous as it is presumptuous, especially if you consider trends in behavior and technology. Requiring onsite parking accommodation unnecessarily increases the cost of the development and ignores how certain people want to live asset-light and car-free.
This project represents the truest hope yet to stem the tide of rental conversion. It serves as a great example of livable infrastructure for the future. It will also represent one of the highest tax densities (i.e. tax revenue per acre) in our city. Thanks for your good work and thoughtful consideration for this exemplary project.
Do you like this post?