Murray Hill workforce housing zoning exceptions approved

Murray Hill workforce housing zoning exceptions approved
Rough site plan for the Bank of America property on Edgewood Avenue in Murray Hill

Despite staunch objections from Murray Hill residents, the Planning Commission unanimously approved zoning exceptions at their Aug. 22 meeting that will allow TVC Development Inc., a subsidiary of Jacksonville-based developer Vestcor, to proceed with its plan to build workforce housing on the Bank of America property at 840 Edgewood Ave. S.

The exceptions include a reduction of required parking spaces, from 248 to 196, and reducing loading spaces from 4 to 0. Vestcor’s plan includes a four-story building with 11,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and 117 multifamily units. 

At a community meeting held at the Murray Hill Theatre Aug. 15, the developer and representatives were on hand to answer questions posed by the community. Many of those questions centered around criteria for residency in the workforce housing – there was a concern that such housing would bring blight to the area.

“With workforce housing you actually have to have a job, you have to earn income of a certain level in order to live in that particular development,” said Steve Diebenow of the law firm Driver, McAfee, Hawthorne & Diebenow, on behalf of Vestcor. “In addition, Vestcor adds additional requirements to screen all their tenants before they are allowed to move in.”

Rent prices range from $772 to $993 monthly, and residents must earn 2 ½ times the amount they are going to pay in rent to be considered as a tenant. “From a broad perspective, the types of jobs folks that live here would have are receptionists, clerks, teachers, firemen and policemen…this isn’t Section 8 housing, this isn’t HUD housing, this isn’t the projects – this is workforce housing,” said Diebenow. 

When someone in the audience asked why Vestcor didn’t want to charge market rate rent prices, the crowd broke into raucous applause. A Talbot Avenue resident expressed concern about parking and noted that the Riverside, Avondale and 5 Points areas all have parking issues because of developments approved by the City and the Planning Commission. “We create these problems ourselves by allowing deviations to go through, zeroing out parking, zeroing out loading spots – we continue to do this to ourselves,” he said.

Murray Hill residents echoed those same concerns and others at the Planning Commission meeting Aug. 22, but commissioners approved the zoning exceptions, emphasizing that they couldn’t deny the proposal based on the rent prices. 

By Kandace Lankford
Resident Community News

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