Ground has not been broken yet for the College Crest student housing complex in the Witham Oaks area, but the project already is raising concerns in the neighborhood.
Notices have been sent to area residents that indicate that the paved multiuse path that connects Northwest Circle Boulevard with Harrison Boulevard will be closed, likely for more than a year and perhaps as long as 18 months during construction of the project.
“The extraordinarily long closure has been met with disappointment by many who use the trail,” said Dave Toler, a bike and walking advocate who emailed his concerns to the Gazette-Times as well as city officials. "I've put up flyers trying to inform people what is going on and 100 percent of them had no idea that this was happening. Given that this is how the developer is starting off ... there could be other potential problems."
City officials, however, point out that the developer, Corvue Holdings, cannot close the trail without city authority and note that they are working with the developer and its project managers on schedules that will minimize the closure.
“The pedestrian path will need to be closed for some duration of the project,” said Kevin Russell, the city’s development services division manager. “It is currently unknown exactly how long ... as we have not received a schedule from the developer outlining the sequence for development. City staff have expressed the importance of the pedestrian path to the developer and have requested their proposal account for trying to get a pedestrian connection reopened as soon as they reasonably can.”
The first phase of the project, which will house nearly 900 residents on a 94-acre parcel north of Harrison and west of 35th Street, will include street improvements. Russell said the developer is close to receiving permit approvals for the street work while adding that no building permits have been issued for grading or construction of any buildings.
The notice that was distributed in the neighborhood indicates that the developers plan to install a sidewalk along Circle “for pedestrians and bicycle access as soon as adequate safety can be assured.”
Community Development Director Paul Bilotta, in an email forwarded to the Gazette-Times, agreed on the safety concern.
“During those times when there is no safe choice other than to close the trail it will need to be closed so the general public is not put in harm’s way,” Bilotta wrote.
The notice listed an approximate construction date of Feb. 1, with the development work requiring the closure lasting until the fall of 2019. The Gazette-Times visited the site Friday. No work has begun and the path remains open.
Corvue plans to develop 25 acres of the parcel for the housing complex. Earlier owners of the property had pledged to donate to the city and maintain some land that is adjacent to the Witham Hill Natural Area. The Corvallis City Council discussed the donation issue at its July 17, 2017 meeting, but Jackie Rochefort, a planner with the Parks and Recreation Department, said Thursday that Corvue has told the city "they are not ready to follow up with that at this time."
The issue, however, remains on the “pending items to be scheduled” list on the council’s three-month calendar.
The parcel has had a long, complicated history. Seven annexation votes were held — and defeated — between 1978 and 2002 before Corvallis voters approved bringing the property into the city in 2004. The land was zoned for single-family (low-density) use, but the zoning was changed to medium density during the lengthy public process that began with a September 2013 public hearing before the Planning Commission. A tortuous two-year path through the Planning Commission, the City Council and the courts ensued before the final city action in August 2015 cleared the way for its construction.
Meanwhile, the land has changed hands twice. The initial application came from Campus Crest, but the project later was sold to Core Investments. Now it is Corvue Holdings which is managing the property. No new public process is required by the ownership changes as long as developers adhere to the original project guidelines.
Corvue is a private held national real estate and development company that specializes in "purpose-built student housing." The company has offices in Chicago, Charlotte, North Carolina and Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Neither Corvue officials nor its project managers returned messages asking for comment on the project.