The drama around the University City Townhomes, the former affordable-housing complex that sits at 3900-60 Market St., has had many twists and turns over the years. Things became clearer back in November, when the last of the residents moved out and a zoning permit for demolition was issued by the city. Beyond this, however, we knew very little about what was to come, beyond a big, blank slate ripe for redevelopment. But, as you have likely gathered, we are here to clear up some confusion.

Looking across Market St. at the University City Townhomes today
The view from 39th & Ludlow, empty and fenced off
Another look from Market St.
A view of the open western part of the property, from 40th & Market
An aerial looking SW shows the block-sized property where the UC Townhomes have stood for decades

Let’s rewind a bit, heading back to last spring, when a key step in the process took place: the City and the developers, IBID Associates, a subsidiary of the Altman Group, agreed to a settlement after Councilmember Jamie Gauthier pushed back against the sale of the property. This settlement included a few key components:

  • IBID gave the City $3.5 million, which was to have been distributed to the displaced former residents to help with moving costs
  • IBID is giving the City a 23K+ sqft parcel, which will eventually include 70 units of affordable housing to make up for the loss of the homes
  • The City, in response to this agreement, will eliminate the remaining parcel owned by IBID from the Affordable Housing Overlay

In simple terms: the same amount of affordable housing will return to the property in some form, with the remainder now free to redevelop as IBID so chooses.

While this is all fine and dandy conceptually, we didn’t have any details whatsoever until a zoning permit was issued late last week. As you can see below, the former rectangular site has been subdivided into the parcels mentioned above, with the smaller parcel designated for affordable housing on the west side of the property.

A zoning map of the past borders of the property
The new properties: City-owned on the west side, IBID-owned on the east side

So what does this move mean for this CMX-4 zoned property? For western parcel, the City can build up to 106K+ sqft by right, with up to 191K+ sqft if utilizing the affordable income bonus. This could mean a shorter tower specifically for those making a percentage of the local AMI, or it could potentially mean a taller, mixed-income tower is possible. While we dream of a slender structure rising on this corner, we’re guessing that the former approach will be taken.

The larger, eastern parcel could be the home for up to 490K sqft by right without bonuses, assuming a commercial building rises here instead of residential units. Even if this was a mixed-use or residential only project, slightly smaller allowable Floor-area-ratio (FAR) restrictions certainly make this an attractive parcel. One has to go only a block in either direction to see what the future could hold here. Just across the street at 40th & Market, a 12-story, 350-unit residential tower is proposed where a low-rise shopping stretch sits. Just across 39th to the east, more UCity Square towers could rise, bringing additional office and medical space to what is now a large surface lot.

350 units across the street at 40th & Market
Two towers planned immediately to the east

In the end, the same number of affordable units will return to the site, providing access to lower-income families in an increasingly popular area. The private landowners, who went through the proper channels to let the tenants and city know of their plans, get to develop the land as they see fit moving forward. We feel for those who were displaced, but we are glad that each household hopefully has $50K in their pockets thanks to the settlement funds – definitely not a paltry sum, even with the stresses of moving. It will be intriguing to see when and how each of these properties is developed as this drama plays out its next act.