Richardson City Council rejects request for apartments geared toward students attending The University of Texas at Dallas

A conceptual rendering shows how the property may have looked once constructed. (Courtesy AltaTerra Real Estate)
A conceptual rendering shows how the property may have looked once constructed. (Courtesy AltaTerra Real Estate)

A conceptual rendering shows how the property may have looked once constructed. (Courtesy AltaTerra Real Estate)

Richardson City Council voted Dec. 14 to oppose a request for a five-story apartment building north of The University of Texas at Dallas.

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.
By Olivia Lueckemeyer
Olivia Lueckemeyer graduated in 2013 from Loyola University New Orleans with a degree in journalism. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in October 2016 as reporter for the Southwest Austin edition before her promotion to editor in March 2017. In July 2018 she returned home to the Dallas area and became editor of the Richardson edition.


Dutch Bros Coffee expects to open later this year in Richardson. (Courtesy Dutch Bros Coffee)
Dutch Bros Coffee coming to Richardson; Plano parks earn high marks and more DFW-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Dutch Bros Coffee expects to open this summer in Plano. (Courtesy Dutch Bros Coffee)
Dutch Bros Coffee coming to Plano; The Pop Parlour opens in Frisco and more DFW-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Two coffee drinks.
Dutch Bros Coffee to continue North Texas expansion with Richardson location

A special permit to allow the coffee shop near the southwest corner of West Arapaho Road and West Shore Drive was approved by Richardson City Council in March.

Forno Pizzeria and Grill now open in Richardson for pickup or delivery

In addition to a variety of specialty pizzas, the eatery's menu includes salads, sandwiches, pasta and more.

Student in front of a computer.
Richardson ISD exploring options for virtual academy despite lack of state funding

Richardson ISD staff are exploring the financial possibility of moving forward with a virtual academy option without full state funding for students who enroll.

Child in front of a computer screen.
Plano ISD suspends plan for permanent online learning option due to lack of state funding

Students who have already completed the preliminary registration process for the planned virtual academy will now resume enrollment at their home campuses.

Gov. Greg Abbott, center signed Senate Bills 2 and 3 into law June 8 in response to the devastating winter storm last February. (Trent Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Gov. Abbott signs bills to reform ERCOT and weatherize Texas power grid

The bills will go into effect Sept. 1 and aim to reform ERCOT leadership and increase accountability and communication among power agencies.

Storage 365 to open Richardson facility later this year

The facility is expected to have three to five retail spots that can be leased out for separate businesses underneath the self-storage units.

Grocery store chain H-E-B announced June 8 the company's plans to open a store in McKinney. (Matt Payne/Community Impact Newspaper)
H-E-B coming to McKinney; Fat Shack restaurant to open this week in Plano and more DFW-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

train station
Richardson begins planning redevelopment around Arapaho Center Station

Richardson City Council voted unanimously during a June 7 work session meeting to start drafting a master plan to eventually renovate the area around the Arapaho Center bus and rail line station.

Richardson ISD board approves JJ Pearce High construction plan

The Richardson ISD board of trustees approved a guaranteed maximum price of just over $6 million for the first phase of a planned expansion and renovation project at JJ Pearce High School during its June 7 meeting.