JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A plan to bring affordable housing to the city's Murray Hill neighborhood cleared a hurdle Thursday when the developer obtained a zoning waiver from the Jacksonville planning commission.
The approval for that exception came despite an outpouring of opposition from neighbors, who voiced concerns about the impact the development could have on parking, public safety and property values.
Commissioners said they don’t view the project as a negative, but rather as a positive development with the potential to help grow this community.
Vestcor, the developer, wants to turn the site of the former Bank of America property on Edgewood Avenue near Kerle Street into a four-story apartment building that would include 117 housing units and 11,000 square feet of retail space. The development would cover 90 percent of the block.
But at Thursday's planning commission meeting, residents spoke up about the problems they fear will come with the development of its size. Some expressed concerns that it might threaten the way of life they have come to know after living there for years.
"We're concerned about noise, the traffic congestion, and the fact that all of a sudden there are 20 people on our street and now there’s 300 people in front of us," said Elizabeth Mallory, who has lived in her Talbot Avenue home for more than three decades.
Mallory wasn't alone. Brian Presley, who lives on College Street, said the neighborhood has seen its share of ups and downs over the years. But in recent years, he said, it has finally started to reach a peak, and that's progress he fears could come undone.
"When there's new development coming in, we don't know exactly what it's going to bring, and we have uncertainties," he said. "I feel like this is going to put an ax on everything that Murray Hill has been doing, and it's going to be falling to what it was 10 years ago."
Vestcor has described the development as "workforce housing." Representatives for the developer who were present at Thursday's meeting did not wish to speak with News4Jax about it.
The proposal is set to go before the Land Use and Zoning Committee on Sept. 4.