Commissioners discuss potential housing additions north of campus


Student housing north of campus could soon see a facelift, thanks to efforts from the city and planning commissions.

Both Mount Pleasant groups looked at a student housing area north of Central Michigan University between Bellows and High streets, at Monday's joint meeting.

They also discussed development codes and procedures, specifically for housing projects between Washington and Main streets.

"We need to do a study to find out which units are owner-occupied, single family housing that is rented out, and deal with the idea of density," said Planning Commissioner Shaun Holtgreive. "Done correctly in the right areas, it serves the community well and keeps the students in the area where they want them."

Over the past couple years, several redevelopment projects have been completed in the M-2 zoning district north of campus, including new housing on South Washington Street and on the corner of Main and High streets.

The redevelopment projects have served to both beautify the streets and keep students in student housing near campus. Planning commissioners raised concerns about where these projects should be built, saying new, high-density projects might not work in neighborhoods bordering residential units.

"We need to quit trying to piecemeal together what we're doing in this area and have a study that looks at the area and has a holistic approach in the long run," said Holtgreive, who also serves as executive director of campus living at CMU.

No code changes were adopted at the meeting, as the planning commission decided at its last meeting to postpone a recommendation to its city counterpart. The city also asked the planning commission to come up with a timeline for further action regarding the M-2 district.

Planning Commissioner Mark Ranzenberger suggested M-2 areas closest to residential neighborhoods should be held to different redevelopment standards, perhaps encouraging townhouse development and one or two-bedroom apartments. He said these units should have higher expectations for landscaping.

"The area that is south of High Street seems like it would be a terrific area for graduate students, for young professionals, new faculty members, for people who would truly add to the community, but have no place to live right now," Ranzenberger said.

City Commissioner Kathy Ling raised concerns over waiting too long to decide how to develop new building regulations for the projects.

"What gets postponed is codification," Ling said. "What does not get postponed is projects. The concern the commission has is these are just moving right along, and maybe in the end we decide that's a good thing. But if we decide a year from now, it's not a good thing."