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St. Augustine seeks less required parking
City requires 108 spots, which church says is not feasible and not needed
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St. Augustine University Parish is seeking a waiver of the requirement that it provide 108 parking spots on the block of its proposed redevelopment project.

The plans to replace all the buildings on the block with an 80,520-square-foot complex that will include three stories of housing for 144 UW–Platteville students, a two-story chapel to replace the church building, and a two-story student center.

That, under the site’s R-3 residential zoning, would require 108 parking spots.

“To provide 75 percent [of required] parking on this site, we just can’t physically do it,” said Steve Harms of Tri-North Builders of Fitchburg, which would build the project.

Harms and others representing the St. Augustine project spoke at a Platteville Common Council work session Jan. 12. St. Augustine’s is proposing 62 spots instead.

The proposed project is the result of the Newman’s Center’s growth.

“To enable that growth, there needs to be some funding for staff and programmatic things,” said Harms. Raising money for the center is “not possible here,” requiring “some other mechanism, whatever it is, that produces revenue.”

The project would supply “virtue- and moral-based housing” with requirements and prohibitions “almost identical to any university,” except that “universities don’t enforce their rules; we will,” he said.

The proposal was first unveiled to the public at the Platteville Plan Commission’s meeting Nov. 2.

Harms said study of parking in the area, including apartment houses, showed that parking to meet city requirements was not needed. 

“We’d rather have a little demand for parking than empty stalls,” he said. “Off campus, for the number of cars parked here, we’re looking at a 30 percent ratio,” or up to 45 percent.

Developer Bill Levy, who consulted on student housing projects in northeastern Wisconsin, that in such projects “the ratio of students to parking is low … student demand isn’t always what you’d see for a conventional apartment.”

At-large Ald. Amy Seeboth-Wilson, who works for UW–Platteville, said 62 percent of UWP residence hall students and 13 percent of commuter students buy parking.

Harms said basic student needs are available within walking distance or by Platteville Public Transportation. He said the project could provide a passenger van for trips to stores.

The proposal includes 39 spaces of on-street parking along Greenwood Avenue and Bradford Street, along with around 30 underground parking spaces proposed to be accessed from West Pine Street west of Bradford Street.

Common Council President Eileen Nickels sounded reluctant to require less parking than zoning requires.

“Maybe these students may not bring cars, but if they do, what do we do as a city?” she said. “I’m not saying no. … I’m just saying, what do we do as a fallback guarantee if you need 30 or 40” spots.

Two large apartment complexes near campus, Washington Place and Twin Pines, were required to meet city parking requirements. The Rountree Commons dorm was not, Seeboth-Wilson said.

One possibility is the project’s renting parking spaces in one of UW–Platteville’s remote lots with vacancies, such as the Memorial Park lot on Greenwood Avenue.

“I’m skeptical of your 30 percent ratio, but I don’t mind a discussion of remote parking,” said Seeboth-Wilson.

District 1 Ald. Barb Stockhausen proposed including the project in downtown parking conversations. A meeting about downtown parking will be held at Julie’s Da Vine Wine & Stein on West Main Street Thursday at 6 p.m.

“I don’t like to mix residential with downtown,” replied District 3 Ald. Barb Daus, who said the two should be a “separate conversation.”

The proposal includes a three-story L-shaped housing building along Greenwood Avenue and Bradford Street with 48 two- and four-bedroom apartments to house up to 144 students.

The chapel is proposed to be on West Pine Street east of South Hickory Street, with the student center to the south. A courtyard would serve as both greenspace and a storm water retention area, with walkways from the north and the southeast.

If approved and funds are raised, project work could begin next spring and summer and be completed sometime in 2017. The project is expected to be submitted to the Plan Commission in February or March as two Planned Unit Developments, one for the chapel and one for the apartments.