Following the City Council work session on Tuesday, March 23, it appears the next step in the development of the Union Square Campus is a go.

The development was continued from the City Council meeting on Feb. 16, and then at the March 16 meeting Mayor Nancy Vaughan asked that it be continued to the April 6 City Council meeting. 

Vaughan’s motion to continue the item passed on 5-4 vote.  It is unusual to have a split vote on continuing agenda items and extremely unusual to have a continuation pass by one vote.

The reason Vaughan gave for requesting the continuance was to hold a work session on the item before the April 6 meeting.

And that virtual work session was held March 23, but it was a pro-forma work session with the same facts and figures reported as had been in the agenda packet for the March 16 meeting.  Nothing about the project had changed and no probing questions were asked of Planning Director Sue Schwartz, who gave the presentation, or Breck Kean of REA Ventures Group, the corporate partner in the development.   Kean was evidently unaware that the City Council is rarely on schedule and participated in the virtual meeting by phone while driving.

The proposal, the same proposal as was on the March 16 agenda, is to build a mixed-use development on the corner of Gate City Boulevard and South Elm Street on what is now the parking lot for the Union Square building.

Parking will be provided with a seven-level parking deck behind the current Union Square building.  The parking deck will have apartments built along two sides, so it will only be visible from Arlington Street.

The mixed-use development is projected to have 250 apartments and 2,000 square feet of retail space and some public space.  The plan calls for 20 percent of the apartments to be affordable housing for people with incomes at or below 80 percent of the median income of the area.

The city is putting $4 million in 2016 community and economic development bond money into the $50 million project

Vaughan said that the City Council would vote on it at the April 6 meeting and maybe the third time is the charm.