City’s 2035 plan includes possible zoning for more apartments near campus

Benjamin Chmiel, city planner for Manhattan, discusses the future land use plan with attendees at the city comission meeting in city hall on November 19, 2014. (Cassandra Nguyen | The Collegian)

Housing and zoning around campus were among the talking points at a community meeting about the Manhattan Area 2035 plan, Wednesday night.

The possibility of high density housing, such as apartments, along North Manhattan Avenue and expansions of “higher density housing” to the west of campus were both discussed. The event included digital remotes which allowed city officials to take votes by the audience members on questions about the plan.

The term high density housing describes housing that allows more people per acre to live there than other types of housing. The term is often used to describe apartments, which technically allow more people per acre to live than a standard home because of their vertical nature.

Eric Cattell, assistant director for planning for the city of Manhattan, said the area where apartments are being built, mainly within a block of North Manhattan Avenue running north and south parallel to the street is considered “multi-family redevelopment overlay.”

“From a density standpoint, it would allow one dwelling unit per thousand square feet of lot,” Cattell said. “So it equates out to about 43 dwelling units per net acre if you were developing very efficiently. We’re probably, most of the apartment buildings over there are probably more in the 25-30 dwelling unit per net acre.”

Cattell said the idea is to bring the kind of urban form of multilevel buildings like a person would expect to see downtown and put them right next to campus. While high-density housing exists already in Manhattan, Cattell said the city is working on creating a new category called “urban-core residential” which would have even higher density than high-density housing. With that category a new zoning district would be required.

“As the name implies it’s an even more urban density than just the high density stuff that we have around town,” Cattell said. “So theoretically (it would allow) maybe up around 100 dwelling units or more per net acre as opposed to the 30-40, and it’s because it’s vertical.”

Just how tall these buildings in the new category could be remains to be decided. Cattell said the city has to decide what seems right for the area.

“We’ve gotta decide what is the maximum height that’s appropriate along the east side (of campus),” Cattell said. “I mean, a 20-story building in Manhattan doesn’t make sense.”

This could be advantageous for students, Cattell said.

“The benefits is that you’re putting the density close to the activity centers, and obviously it’s going to be mostly student-oriented housing or university-oriented,” Cattell said. “So you’re putting (the students) close to where they are doing most of their daily trips, that’s the major benefit, and from an urban form standpoint, we already have some higher structures there so it wouldn’t be totally out of character to continue with that.”

Community members voiced concern over the fact that putting high-density housing along Manhattan Avenue could cause even more traffic congestion due to the addition of more cars in the area and more pedestrians.

Cattell said these factors could indeed be disadvantages to building more apartment buildings in the proposed area if developers chose to.

“There’s just issues when you bring a new and much higher density to an area,” Cattell said. “If you drive North Manhattan now, I don’t know if it’s at (noon) or 12:30 p.m. when classes get out and kids are pushing the crosswalk; I mean traffic isn’t going anywhere for a long time, so that’s an issue.”

Roger Seymour, Riley County resident, said he was glad the city approached the plan the way it did.

“We know that Manhattan is going to expand from it’s current population to something greater, potentially we will see (80,000), (100,000), 120,000 people here in 20 or 30 years,” Roger said. “We do not have the road network to take care of that, we do not have the water and sewage plants to take care of them, we do not have the total infrastructure, and being on the front end being where we are planning for it is a great advantage to the opposition of reacting to it.”

James Seymour, Manhattan resident and Roger’s brother, said he is aware of the way that part of the plan is looking at rezoning.

“Some of the people have bought other properties that they have long-term interest in mind, and if they get rezoned they are loosing value,” James said.

Cattell said that if students coming to K-State in 10 years could see Manhattan now, they would see a lot of improvements made before their time here.

“I think they’ll see better transit within the community, I think they’ll see more things like bike routes between campus, Aggieville and the downtown,” Cattell said. “They’ll see more housing options. Obviously K-State is also doing stuff on campus with the business school and the new dorm, so there will be a lot of new physical changes on campus – not just around the edges of campus.”

Shelton grew up in the desert southwest. A native of Lancaster, California, he mostly grew up in south Phoenix, Arizona; Austin, Texas; and Colorado Springs, Colorado before moving to Kansas and graduating from Junction City High School. He started working as a news writer for the Collegian in 2009 before taking a three-year break from college. He returned to K-State in 2013 and has since worked for the news desk, feature desk, as a copy editor and now as a sports writer. He enjoys tap dancing, writing anything possible, reading court opinions and watching Arizona Coyotes hockey.