Reporting Joel Thomas
ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) - Signs of The University of Texas at Arlington’s explosive growth are visible everywhere near the college campus. Most notably in its University Park area where the school’s gymnasium, residential living and business all come together in an urban village environment, which has grown hand-in-hand with the development of Arlington’s downtown area just north of town.
In fact, enrollment has grown by 34 percent in just five years and unlike the student population many years ago, many students now want to live on or near campus rather than commute.
The growth has resulted in a huge demand for apartments around the campus. Just ask apartment manager Patricia Stark who oversees Vintage Pads and Zen Apartments, two recently renovated complexes near the UTA campus.
“They’re filled up,” Stark said. “We’ve had international students contacting us. We’ve had current students wanting to renew.”
She’s at 85 percent capacity during the summer.
When the army of UTA students returns for the fall semester, “I’ll be at 100 percent easy,” Stark said. “We’ll be turning people away.”
Arlington is considering plans from private developers for the demolition of old apartment complexes east and west of campus and the construction of new, higher density apartments.
“We don’t like that kind of development in this area,” said Grace Darling of the Heart of Arlington Neighborhood Association.
The apartments don’t fit in aesthetically, according to Darling and several other neighborhood residents.
Plans for the complex west of the campus show a modern-looking, four story residential building facing W. Abrams Street with a seven story parking garage behind it.
“I mean that building is just ugly,” Darling said. “It looks really institutional. That unbroken roof line.”
Darling says she’s worried, too, about apartment developers “flipping” properties and selling to new owners who won’t maintain the apartment buildings as well.
But city planners say new apartments continue the growth that has already revitalized UTA’s campus and downtown Arlington. And the it eliminates decaying, 50-year-old apartment buildings.
“Versus new apartments with amenities that serve the community of UTA that I think will do nothing but and add value to the community, increase the student population on the campus and add to a more vibrant life here,” said former planning commissioner Victor Vandergriff who supported new apartment construction during his time on the city’s planning and zoning commission.
The first apartment project goes before Arlington’s current planning commission next week.
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