The "timeout" on the 101 York student housing project that was imposed by Councilman David Marks in November in order to address parking issues appears to be over, as the developer presented a parking analysis and plans on Friday, which the firm says addresses community concerns.
David Schlachman, principal of DMS Development, presented the plans to Greater Towson Council of Community Associations President Paul Hartman and Josh Glikin, who chairs a committee responsible for the future of the building site, known as the Towson Triangle.
Schlachman said the revised plans for the York Road development will add 125 onsite student parking spaces, but that an additional 40 beds will need to be added to offset the additional costs for parking.
"I'm not real hopeful that I'm going to win them over," Schlachman said of the project's opponents from nearby communities. "I think there's a lot of people that, for whatever the reason, are not going to like the development. I wanted to do something that responded to their concerns that I could control.
Changes to the site plan and parking have caused the project to grow in size and scope since County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced it in April 2013 as a $60 million, 500-bed complex.
Since then, the project, which must be completed as a planned unit development, has come under intense community scrutiny.
A revision of the plan to accommodate the property's natural geography last fall reduced the building's footprint, but to make the change financially feasible, the building was made taller. The building's new height required it to be built of steel and concrete, which is more expensive than the original wood. As a result, more beds were added to offset construction costs.
The PUD proposal, which allows for development above a property's zoning density provided there is a demonstrated need and community benefit, was submitted to Marks in November with specific numbers.
The PUD plan originally called for 571 beds and 290 student parking spaces, plus 80 spaces dedicated to the first-floor retail customers. An additional 150 parking spaces would be available in the garage near the Towson Library through an agreement with the Baltimore County Revenue Authority.
However, Marks called a timeout on the project after a fiery public meeting with the community and developers, and asked that a parking study be completed to address concerns that student parking would overflow into the surrounding communities.
Schlachman enlisted Chance Management Advisors to study the parking situation at the building. That analysis found there was more than adequate parking from a zoning perspective and a student-need perspective.
Still, Schlachman said he wanted to try and accommodate community concerns and so explored several options.
He said in order to dig the underground garage deeper, he would have to effectively build a bath tub-like structure to keep groundwater out. An automated lift system, which mechanically shuffles cars around the garage like the parking system used at the Palisades apartment building, would have been too expensive as well.
DMS' solution now is to add a second level of parking behind the first-floor retail stores along York Road that would be solely for students. The ground level of parking would be for retail customers.
"We have a total now of 415 spaces for students only," Schlachman said. "We had to raise the number of beds by 40, from 571 to 611, to make the numbers work. That gives us 68-percent parking onsite."
The changes have increased the price tag on the complex up $15 million to $75 million, and pushed DMS' target completion date to 2017 with the proviso that construction can begin next summer.
The added beds also means the rear portion of the building will grow as well. The tower in the rear will now be 13 stories high with two levels of above-ground parking providing a base for 11 floors of residential dormitories. As a comparison, the Towson University Marriott next door to the site is 18 stories tall.
Schlachman described Friday's meeting with Hartman and Glikin as "very frank."
"I'm hoping that at the end of the day, there's some people that appreciate what we did," he said. "But I'm sure they'll focus on the 40 extra beds, not the 125 extra parking spaces."
Hartman said the GTCCA board and its membership would discuss the plan later this month, and could not provide a position until then.
"They're listening to the complaints about the parking, that's for sure," Hartman said. "They've made an effort to alleviate that issue, but that's not the sole issue or the sole argument against the project."
Hartman said residents also have concerns about the project's size, environmental impact, and traffic in the area, among other things.
"There are still those who feel that student housing would be best built on campus," Hartman said. "Those issues haven't changed whatsoever. We'll just have to follow through, go one step at a time."
Marks said he had not met with Schlachman since the changes were revealed, but he received the parking study and new renderings and was encouraged by changes on that front.
"I'm certainly pleased there's a 20-percent increase in the parking, and we'll go from there," Marks said.