The developers of the proposed redevelopment of the St. Augustine University Parish properties will be introducing a modified proposal to the Platteville Common Council next week.
After the city Plan Commission voted 5–2 March 7 to recommend against a Planned Unit Development for the project, the developers have reconfigured the buildings to closer fit the existing R-3 multifamily residential zoning, in part by slightly reducing the size of the courtyard, although the developers will still seek a two-part PUD.
“We’ve addressed it as best as we can,” said Steve Harms of Tri-North Builders. “We know we have enough room; we’re just not sure how we’re going to arrange it.”
The proposed development on the block bordered by West Pine Street, South Hickory Street, Greenwood Avenue and Bradford Street still has 144 beds with eight two-bedroom units and 32 four-bedroom units, targeting UW–Platteville juniors, seniors and graduate students, and possibly faculty. The student center would total about 20,000 square feet.
“We’ve been providing whatever we can for students in their faith walk and develop a relationship with Christ,” said St. Augustine development director Steve Davies. “It’s not that what we have here is bad; we’ve just outgrown it. Students come here and they have no place to study.”
A YouTube video at PioneerCatholic.org makes the case for bigger facilities by showing St. Augustine employees with offices in closets, mentioning standing-room-only attendance at Mass, and attendance doubling at weekly student dinners.
“This is exactly targeting what the [city] comprehensive plan calls for, which is taller buildings, higher density, close to campus, allowing use of shared parking, use of onside management vs. remote management,” said Harms.
Davies said the courtyard is a “big public space” and a “great cut-through” from West Main Street toward the campus.
The project also has more of the 112 required parking stalls on the block, with 37 underground stalls under the housing building, 47 on the surface, and 28 spots to be located at St. Mary Catholic Church. Under R-3 zoning regulations, the project is required to provide 112 parking spaces for tenants on site, based on a formula of 0.75 spaces per bedroom per unit.
Parking was one major issue in previous meetings between the developers and the Common Council and Plan Commission. Other issues that came up were the height of the chapel — the R-3 limit is 40 feet, and Harms said the chapel will be no taller than 39 feet — along with issues tied to the divisions among present and former members of the St. Augustine and St. Mary congregations.
“These are emotional-type issues,” said Davies. “And you’re going to have some people who are negative about it. If this had been posed 10 years ago, could it have gotten this objection? And the answer is no.
“If we can show a benefit to the students — you’ve going to be bringing more students to Christ — and you bring a benefit to the city — if we keep showing how it’ll benefit the university and the city, it’s going to be hard to object to it.”
The project is designed in three financial phases. Money has been raised to purchase the houses on the block and conduct a feasibility study. St. Augustine’s needs $2 million to break ground on housing. The new chapel requires another $3 million to $4 million.
“A university parish like this is about 80 percent students, and 20 percent are parishioners,” said Davies. “Students are not putting $100 into the collection each month; it’s very simple.”
Davies said the student housing will “generate money for the program, and everybody wins.”
Harms said negotiations with the city over a Payment in Lieu of Taxes agreement started before Easter. The owners of the four houses now on the block paid $7,600 in property taxes last year, he said.