The 10-acre property, located northeast of Frankford Road between President George Bush Turnpike and Waterview Parkway, would have been geared toward students but was not affiliated with the university. The proposal included 242 units ranging from one to four bedrooms wrapped around a five-level garage with more than 300 parking spaces.
Enrollment at UT Dallas has nearly doubled over the past decade. According to the university, 30,000 students attend UT Dallas today, and enrollment is projected to increase by 5,500 students by 2030.
The project was intended to alleviate an alleged student housing shortage that only stands to worsen as more students enroll, property owner Dr. Mehrdad Mazaheri said.
“This school has a bright future, and it’s not going to be stationary at 30,000 students. We are going to see it go to 60,000 or 70,000 students,” Mazaheri said.
Northside, the university’s student housing development just north of campus, was nearly full prior to the pandemic but has since lost residents, Mazaheri said. The demand for student housing will return once the pandemic subsides, said Michael Augustine, a developer with AltaTerra Real Estate.
“We have a very big disconnect [with UT Dallas] on demand and how quickly we believe enrollments and students coming to the market are,” Augustine said.
Doug Tomlinson, associate vice president for facilities planning at UT Dallas, appeared at the meeting to read a statement of opposition written by Calvin Jamison, UT Dallas' vice president for facilities and economic development.
Among the chief concerns outlined in Jamison’s letter was that the project would oversaturate the market in a time when many students are taking classes online. The university has said it will have 8,100 student beds once the final phase of Northside opens in the fall and that it has plans to demolish older housing stock to accommodate more dense housing.
“We recommend in the strongest terms that UT Dallas should be able to focus on filling the existing and upcoming housing that has already been planned, approved and supported both by the university as well as its surrounding communities and homeowners associations,” Jamison’s letter said. “As UT Dallas continues to experience unprecedented growth in the next 6-10 years, UT Dallas would be happy to reconsider support for such an entity. However, now, is not the time to proceed with this proposal.”
Several concerns were raised by council regarding the layout of the project as well as its potential to create traffic and safety issues. If approved, the building would have come online around the same time as the Silver Line, Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s newest light-rail project, which means students walking or biking to school would be forced to cross not only Waterview Parkway but also the railway.
“Waterview is only going to get way busier when the land along the south of you is developed with the Silver Line,” Council Member Kyle Kepner said.
Six members of the public spoke in favor of the project. Jennifer Mora, a nearby resident, said many of the homes in her neighborhood are rented to college students, some of whom have been less-than-ideal neighbors, she said.
“I have lived the nightmare of landlords renting to college kids,” she said. “They have endless loud parties; traffic is out of control; many times, I’ve been woken up by noise, car doors slamming, people fighting, etc.”
Paul Dell, an attorney from Plano, said he has represented several students in cases brought against “predatory” landlords leasing homes near UT Dallas. He said the facility would provide a safe place for students to live.
“This is a place that is made for students, so it seems reasonable that they would address things that a student needs,” he said.
Sean Merrell, a traffic engineer with BGE, the firm responsible for the project’s traffic study, said his analysis found there were no major improvements needed to accommodate the building.
“This could potentially reduce the vehicles and make the area safer because you don't have students traveling from such far distances off campus,” he said.
Council ultimately had too many concerns about the project to approve the request. Perhaps the biggest sticking point was that the project does not adhere to the city’s comprehensive plan for the area, which calls for office space and mixed-use residential and retail developments north of the Silver Line.
“There are multiple angles of this that don’t fit into what we ultimately thought of as the best use of that property,” Mayor Paul Voelker said.
The project was opposed unanimously by council.