Housing discussion rolls forward as city discusses sites
In the search for sites upon which to build more desperately needed housing, Craig has options.
But the details of the most immediately available and accessible of those options are beginning to become a bit more clear.
Monday, city representatives met virtually with consultants specializing in urban planning and engineering, along with the group that delivered the city’s recent housing needs assessment, to discuss land use.
The big location, said Craig’s economic development manager Shannon Scott after the meeting, is the city-owned slice of land just south of the baseball diamonds at Woodbury Park. In the quest for the 75 housing units the needs assessment determined the city requires for a healthy housing market, that roughly 3-acre plat is going to likely play a huge part.
“We’re going over about five sites,” Scott said. “Making sure exactly what infrastructure is in place, where we’re deficient and how do we compensate and ensure the correct infrastructure is there to get a site shovel-ready. We talk a lot about infrastructure needs, but it’s a broad statement. What do we need at each site?”
The Woodbury site, which is essentially adjacent to a neighborhood of houses across Woodbury Drive to the north and west, could accommodate a number of houses that Scott said would be pretty difficult to determine at this point, in part because unit density remains extremely up in the air.
It appears likely several dozen units could fit on the plat. Whether that number is a couple or three dozen or more like 50 or 60 units is hard to say.
“We’re in the real beginning phases,” Scott said. “We’re starting to see concepts, determining the best use for the property. The needs assessment determined that that’s our number one priority site, because it’s city-owned and it has infrastructure mostly in place. It’s close to amenities. We want to ensure we’re providing the best potential for that site — we’re exploring a lot of options, but we want to make sure we choose the correct one.”
Another site that’s been in public discussion, which Scott was willing to name — two or three other sites are on private property that haven’t been made public, and the city is hesitant to disclose the specifics about them because of the nature of ongoing negotiations — is the Russell Street and Eighth Street location that until recently housed the old Memorial Hospital.
That site is owned by Memorial Regional Hospital, but MRH has been clear it’s willing to consider options that could include housing for its employees and possibly those of other entities. How, exactly, that could look remains a subject of intense discussion.
The hospital had presented a proposal that it said had been initially incompatible with city approvals because of parking requirements. Scott said her understanding was a new proposal was in the works.
“Russell Street isn’t city-controlled, but we’re working with the hospital to see what we can do,” Scott said. “It’s a lot smaller, but I think that’s another spot where we need to make sure zoning is in place to work.”
The 75 missing units identified by the assessment ought to include a mix of rental and for-sale units, Scott said.
“From what we’ve seen with those two sites, the potential of Woodbury and the old hospital, those two could take care of our existing demand right now,” she said. “That would be providing housing for nurses, teachers, police officers, etc.”
In order to get houses built on these sites, the city is working to entice developers with a number of incentives. Primary among them is the provision of required infrastructure like road, water, sewer and electricity — most of which are near at hand for both sites in question. Relaxed or right-sized zoning, and other variables — like a potential for a master lease held by an employer or two, or the city itself — are also under discussion.
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