Council reviews student housing proposal

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia City Council approved a measure that will allow plans for a student housing project to move forward.

The Columbia City Council reviewed a California-based developer's request to turn two plots of land, where Quinton’s Bar and Deli is currently located, into a building mainly to be used for student housing. The proposal passed by a vote of 6-1 Monday night.

Fields Holdings Company is scheduled to begin construction of the “mixed-use” building in April. 

Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala pushed for a tabling motion for the proposal so the council could better understand the implications of the project.

“We have to ask whether or not it would be in the public’s best interest to delay this for a period of time in order to ask the proper questions about how this impacts the public’s health and safety,” Skala said.

Skala pointed to Columbia’s existing sewage problem, as well as potential electrical issues with regard to transmission lines, as major reasons he wanted to postpone the platting proposal. 

“We may have some issues here with regard to the impact on the downtown area, on whether or not we need to take a deep breath and ask the staff to give us an evaluation of what this really means, in terms of expense, and also in terms of the infrastructure itself as it relates to health and public safety,” Skala said.

Prior to the meeting, Skala said he wanted to vote against the proposal if he was unsuccessful at postponing the vote, but it depended on what information was presented at the meeting. 

Eran Fields is the president of Fields Holdings LLC. He said the building would be beneficial for downtown.

“It’s designed in a way to compliment the surrounding area as much as possible,” Fields said.

Tess Prince, a student at the University of Missouri, said the new building is unnecessary.

“I think it takes away the historical side of Columbia; it’s too new,” Prince said.

Ian Barr, also a student at MU, had his first beer at Quinton’s when he turned 21. He said the new housing projects are taking away from Columbia’s infrastructure.

“I think it’s kind of a shame because I feel like we have a lot of housing going up right now. I feel like a lot of these housing structures are taking away jobs, and places that have been here for a while,” Barr said.

Fields said he feels for those who voice concern over losing part of Columbia’s history but doesn’t think it will be a major loss.

“I think that I sympathize with them… but there are certainly parts of it that are old and run down; you have to look at it in a context of ‘does this have significance,' and age alone doesn’t mean it is significant,” Fields said.

Councilman Michael Trapp of the Second Ward said the council is in a tough position because no laws are being broken.

“The council may not have any discretion over it because it appears to be completely legal,” Trapp said.

Fields said his company has invited Quinton’s to return to the building once the project is complete, and construction should be complete by the summer of 2017.

(Editor's Note: This story has been updated with the council's decision.)