The development at the center of several weeks of discussion appeared on the Allen City Council meeting agenda Tuesday and continues to create a stir among residents. The item, seeking approval of plans for Allen City Center, was remanded by council back to the Planning and Zoning Commission at the developer’s request.
In a letter to the council, Wolverine Interests asked for the opportunity to explore alternatives to its concept plan and step backward in the process.
“The change will include the incorporation of two-story townhomes for a portion along the northern property line emulating a proximity slope that is not required by the current CBD (central business district) zoning,” the letter states.
The two-story concept appears to directly address one of the concerns brought up by residents over the last three months in P&Z meetings.
The current design on 12 acres of the CBD includes 850 residential units within four- to five-story buildings, a five-story office building and three 4.5- to 8-level parking structures. Retail-ready space is planned for the ground levels for future businesses.
The concept plan received approval in December by the city’s Design Review Committee, but P&Z recommended denial at its meeting earlier this month.
The project aims to be the kickoff point for the CBD in downtown Allen, a 250-acre section that was a focus of the city’s 2019 Strategic Plan.
While residents of the area have raised several concerns over design, traffic and other issues, many agreed their opposition boils down to density.
Mayor Stephen Terrell addressed some concerns directly, including tree mitigation, parking and traffic. He said the post office will be moving out of downtown, a welcome revelation to many. He said he’s a proponent of the retail aspect of the project, and the residential component is a major factor of that.
“You’ve got to create a demand, a need for that retail to survive in that area,” he said.
Jim Leslie, managing principal for Wolverine Interests, said there is misinformation making the rounds about the project and encouraged everyone to educate themselves.
“I think it behooves you all to know the facts of what really this type of development can do for the CBD going forward, and we’re here to help the city,” he said during the public hearing. “I think as you do your due diligence and you learn more about it, it does become a city issue. And if you don’t want this for the CBD then we understand that, and we’ve got some other issues we can do as far as how we resolve the situation.”
He told council members the company hoped to have the opportunity to work with the city and homeowners.
In large part, the council members were open to more discussion that would include residents in order to achieve “middle ground” on the vision for not only the Allen City Center project, but also the CBD as a whole.
“I’d like for our community to have input into what the entire CBD will look like eventually if we had our druthers,” Councilwoman Lauren Doherty said. “I know we can’t command developers to do what we like, but we can potentially change our code for that area so that everyone fits into a similar style, or we change the height rules for that particular area so that everyone can be comfortable with whatever is built there eventually.”
Councilman Chris Schulmeister moved to remand the item to P&Z for consideration of revised plans, and the council voted 6-1 to remand. Councilman Baine Brooks voted against. The item is scheduled for its third P&Z appearance on June 18.
If the council had denied approval as stated, Wolverine Interests would be eligible to submit plans again through same process.