The N.E. project is unlikely to meet the (not-yet-finalized) high density zoning requirements. Even if it did, however, approving a high density building under C-3 zoning with special use will create a loop hole for circumventing the high density zoning altogether. A developer, for instance, might choose to put a commercial leasing office and a gym on the ground floor of a high rise, high density apartment so that it can apply for C-3 with special use, citing the N.E. Project as a precedent.
Given that NEDC is largely funded by public funds, this seems to be a case of regulatory capture. Advocating for approval of special use zoning for a high density project disrespects community input into the planning process and tempts the city council to ignore its obligation to uphold the spirit of the high density zoning process, if not the letter of the law.