The Norman Transcript

May 5, 2013

High-density housing will occur in Norman someday

The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Editor, The Transcript:

High-density housing: Yes, high-density housing that makes economic sense to an entrepreneur will occur with this city council or the next or the next.

When demand for vertical housing is great enough, an entrepreneur will step up and satisfy this demand. It’s simple economics. That is how villages turn into towns and towns turn into cities. It is not a question of if but when.

Environment: Because vertical housing is good for the environment, vertical housing should begin right now. It makes perfect sense. There is less urban sprawl, less concrete and asphalt covering natural dirt and foliage, less soil erosion, less single family water and sewer connections, trash pickup, etc.

We need to address soil and water conservation right now. Instead of building out, we need to build up. When people live in high density, there are less lawns to water.

Location: People want to live between downtown and campus. Right now, drive between downtown and campus and see how many “for sale” signs or “for rent” signs you see. Very few. The market is speaking. Lawrence, Kan., is the perfect example.

If you are familiar with KU, there is not a Campus Corner. However, in downtown Lawrence, a mixed-use structure is moving toward development at Ninth and New Hampshire. There’s underground parking, 7,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor and condos on the fifth floor.

Also, a building in the Warehouse District was revitalized as a mixed-income development. In July 2012, all 49 apartment units were leased within 24 hours of opening. It is a four-story building.

A private developer just opened a 10-story hotel (The Oread) a block north of the student union and northeast of Memorial Stadium. The Oread is located between campus and downtown.

Rice University in Houston is another example. One mixed-use, high-density structure is under construction next to Rice Village right now. Rice Village is the Rice University campus corner, which is right next to campus and in a single-family residential neighborhood. It is six stories, where the ground floor is retail and five stories are residential.

Norman 2025: The citizens involved with this plan have recommended vertical housing.

Town and gown: The gorgeous structure being built on the corner of Jenkins Avenue and Lindsey Street is awesome. It is a benefit to OU and to the city of Norman. However, a number of citizens (small but vocal group) don’t think what is appropriate for OU would be appropriate for Norman. Why the discrepancy?

Good thing OU owns the land at Lindsey and Jenkins. That way OU doesn’t have to adhere to Norman zoning.

So I ask this small group of vocal citizens, why is a project like Headington Hall good for the gown but not for the town? My thoughts are that it would be wonderful to have a structure like this in the private sector.

Jobs: Make housing available to people who want to wake up between OU and downtown. Currently, the situation is “Come to Norman and work, but we can’t help you find an affordable place to live close to downtown or campus.” This does not make sense.

However, currently a handful of entrepreneurs agree that there is need for more housing between downtown and OU, and they want to satisfy this need.

Guaranteed profit to an entrepreneur: This is simply not true. No one guarantees a self-employed person a profit. I have been on straight commission since I graduated from college 31 years ago and no one has ever guaranteed me a dime. Have you ever heard of a buyer promising a seller a profit? It does not happen.

Summary: Other university communities are on the move creating more vertical housing. Norman needs to compete. Pedestrian-friendly locales benefit from being near other walkable areas. Residents of walkable areas have lower transportation costs.

So, hopefully logic and common sense will prevail. We need to address our limited resources as well as try to provide suitable housing to people who are coming to live close to downtown and campus.

Please contact your council person and recommend to them to allow entrepreneurs to build up to 75 feet in height.

John Lungren