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Greeks, Residents Meet
about Plans for Stratford Heights

Date: Oct. 30, 2001
By: Marianne Kunnen-Jones
Phone: (513) 556-1826
Archive: Campus News

Community residents, university officials and members of UC's Greek system met on three evenings last week to continue the planning process for a new "village" proposed for an area bordered by Clifton Avenue, Stratford Avenue and De Votie Street, west of UC's main campus.

The proposed development, called Stratford Heights, will include new housing for fraternities, sororities and other student groups, recreational open spaces, better access to nearby Coy Park and possibly a multi-level garage to replace the existing Stratford parking lot. Much of the land for the seven-acre development has been purchased by the University Heights Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation (UHCURC), a non-profit corporation formed to help revitalize the University Heights neighborhood.

"Our master planner came up with a fantastic revitalization plan. I'm excited, as you can tell," said Gary Menchhofer, president of the UHCURC board of trustees.

The location for Stratford Heights is currently a sloped site, west of Clifton Avenue. The existing structures in that area include the Stratford parking lot, the Lighthouse Youth Crisis Center, housing and a potholed "dead end" section of De Votie street that serves as a frequent pedestrian short cut from the parking lot uphill to a crosswalk across from McMicken Hall.

According to Menchhofer, the development now calls for up to 600 beds in student housing. "That's 20 building pads with parking and houses of 30 beds each. This really adds some real character and revitalization to the community," he said.

When the new UC visitor's center eventually opens on the east side of Clifton Avenue, Menchhofer said, "What you will see down the hill is a village of housing staggered with a large open green common area." As students and parents come to the new University Pavilion next to the current Administration Building, "they will see exciting new housing for students and attractive open space," he said.

UHCURC formed in December 2000 and includes board membership from the Heights Community Council, the Greek Affairs Council (GAC) and UC. Its creation followed community resistance to a plan by a developer to build a large parking garage on the west side of Clifton Avenue.

The new plans for Stratford Heights, in contrast, "have been an open process from the beginning, with community participation," said Britt Sang, UC campus planner and the university's liaison on the project. "In a lot of ways this was an answer to that earlier project that didn't take into consideration the community issues or the students for that matter."

According to Sang, "The Greek system has been a real driver for this development. They have always been concerned with the image, longevity and general health of the Greek system as a group and much of the Greek housing near campus is antiquated," Sang said.

The master planner for Stratford Heights are architects Mackey Mitchell Associates of St. Louis, while other partners are EDAW Inc. of Denver and PKG Consulting Inc. of Cincinnati. Within a month, Mackey Mitchell Associates (MMA) hopes to have more formal plans prepared, based on discussions held Oct. 22-24 at University Hall, said Richard B. Kirschner, Mackey Mitchell architect.

Mackey Mitchell has previously created plans for Concordia Seminary, Missouri Botanical Garden, Pere Marquette Gallery, Union Station Office Center and Washington University Student Housing, all in St. Louis. The firm is known for preserving architectural character and generous open landscape while providing a framework for growth and change.

UC has loaned $4.5 million to UHCURC to make a major acquisition for the project. Construction will be financed with tax-exempt bonds issued by UHCURC.

"Without the university, we could never have done this so quickly," said Menchhofer. "The university is really helping to get things done."

Menchhofer also commends the university for its partnership in other revitalization efforts in the neighborhoods surrounding UC. "I think it's wonderful because they are being a good neighbor," he said, adding that until recently Corryville looked pretty much the way it did when he was a UC student in the 1960s. "The Corryville area hadn't improved that much since I was there." Now, with the community-UC relationships that have developed, things have begun to change.

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