The developer of an affordable housing project along the Metro light rail line in Tempe has scaled the development back again as it tries to win over opponents from two historic neighborhoods.
Gracie’s Village is now slated to rise three stories along Apache Boulevard with a small area for a fourth floor, compared with an original plan for six floors. But neighbors still attacked the idea, saying the project would tower over their neighborhood on Apache and near McClintock Drive.
So many opponents spoke at a Tempe City Council meeting last Thursday that the council decided minutes before midnight to postpone taking a vote until June 14.
Grace Community Church owns the 2-acre site where it proposes to raze Gracie’s thrift store. Wisconsin-based Gorman and Company would build a residential building that would include retail space for Gracie’s.
Gorman initially proposed a six-story, 75-unit project that became a four-story, 50-unit development. Many residents said they only recently discovered some of the most recent changes and didn’t have time to study the new proposal.
Mayor Hugh Hallman frequently engaged with opponents to point out the developer had met many of the demands some neighbors made early on, only to get more pushback.
Gail Martelli has lived near Gracie’s 25 years and told Hallman residents have also become upset over how the City Council has dealt with them.
“You have been badgering and interrupting the neighbors,” she said.
Hallman said he and other members of the council worked years ago to help designate the neighborhood historic and to reduce density along Apache. The site would have allowed 50 units per acre in some circumstances had the council not stepped in years ago, Hallman said.
Many residents oppose the 42-foot height on a part of the building that will be far away from homes. Hallman said redevelopment is inevitable. He warned that another developer could build even more units than Gorman proposes under the city’s zoning.
“Nothing is not an option here,” Hallman said. “What you’ll end up with is a 35-(foot-tall) stick and stucco, two-story apartment complex 10 feet from the back wall and there will be nothing you can do about it. And I think that’s a disaster for our community.”
Hallman said some residents were being hypocritical for previously wanting affordable housing and social services, only to now say those things will hurt their neighborhood.
Gracie’s Village would be open only to residents with low or moderate incomes, between about $18,000 and $52,000. Gorman attorney Manjula Vaz said a project like this is important because it provides housing for people such as teachers, food service workers and others who work in Tempe but can’t afford to live there.
Because of a legal protest by adjacent property owners, Gracie’s Village requires six out of seven votes from the City Council to win approval. Without the protest, it could be approved with just four votes.
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