Arcata to reconsider revamped Village Housing Project

New project aimed at both students and community housing market

Patrick Shanahan, center left, senior project manager for AMCAL Multi-Housing Inc., talks about the layout and access for the proposed Village student housing site in Arcata in mid-2018. The project is coming to the council for reconsideration later this month. (Shaun Walker — The Times-Standard)
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The Village is back.

At the end of the month, the Arcata City Council will hear about changes made to the contentious Village Student Housing project and will reconsider the future of the project.

While all the details are not yet available for the new plans, there are a few significant changes.

“The project has shifted one that is 100 percent what they are referring to as student-purpose to a mix of student-oriented housing and open market housing,” said David Loya, the city’s community development director. “That was what the community asked for and members that voted against the project (asked for).”

The council voted to reject the proposal at a council meeting in August 2018, following months of discussion at both the council and the city’s planning commission. Councilman Michael Winkler abstained because of his past work with the developer, Councilmembers Paul Pitino and Sofia Pereira voted in favor of the project, but that was countered by no votes from Councilmembers Susan Ornelas and Brett Watson. Both Ornelas and Watson sought a project that addressed both the university’s need for more dorms and the community’s need for more housing.

“They are taking all of the council’s requests that they had at the last meeting,” Loya said. “Brett (Watson) and Susan (Ornelas) had some specific requirements they wanted to see. They are taking those all seriously.”

Neither David Moon of Coleraine Capital Group nor Patrick Shanahan of AMCAL, who are both working on the development, responded to a request for comment before the publishing deadline.

Some aspects of the project will likely remain. The same property, Craftsman’s Mall, is still slated for the project and it will likely still have multiple multi-story buildings, although now they could be up to four stories, according to Loya, while the previous iteration was capped at three stories.

Arcata Citizens for Responsible Housing welcomed the news that there will be a portion of the project set aside for community members.

John Bergenske, the chief financial officer for ACRH, said he has heard the student portion will likely be between 60 to 80 percent.

“There is going to be a mix of students and nonstudents, which is a good thing,” he said Wednesday morning.

He said the estimated 500 members of the group are “pretty interested in seeing this development,” noting ACRH informed its members through social media and email about the Jan. 30 meeting.

An artist’s rendering of a portion of the Village student housing project is shown. (Times-Standard file)

Another significant change is that Humboldt State University is no longer “at the table,” according to Loya.

“Before HSU was intimately involved in the whole project,” Loya said.

The university confirmed it’s lack of involvement.

“HSU has no involvement in the revised project,” said HSU spokesperson Frank Whitlatch in an email to the Times-Standard. “As always, we remain very interested in additional safe and affordable housing for our students, both on campus and off.”

Asked whether it was HSU’s choice to walk away from involvement in the project, Whitlatch said, “The Arcata City Council rejected the project that included HSU’s involvement.”

Bergenske said HSU’s lack of involvement was viewed as “a good thing.”

“One of our main concerns is that the project would be built and assumed by the university,” he said. “… A project like this generates a lot of tax revenue for the city. … Our concern was if you build this project and you remove it to the ownership of the state, it would leave the residents of Arcata to foot the project. It still might. Just because they are not affiliated doesn’t mean they can’t come back to the table.”

Loya said that as soon as the project details are released to the city, they will be published on the city’s website. He did not have a specific timeline for when that would occur.

Bergenske said he is looking forward to the meeting.

“Like everybody else, we’re very interested to see these other elements and how they pan out,” he said. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”

If you go

What: Arcata City Council meeting

Where: Council chambers, 736 F Street, Arcata

When: Jan. 30, 5:30 p.m.

Ruth Schneider can be reached at 707-441-0520.

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