Concerns continue over proposed plans for Midtown monastery

Monastery housing plan changes

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A midtown Tucson community continues to have concerns over the future of a local landmark.

Neighbors filled the Benedictine Monastery Thursday to hear about what could become of the property. After concerns about the height of the proposed apartment buildings earlier this month, neighbors did see a slight change.

"Our intent is to work together and make something really great," said Architect Corky Poster, who joined the development project five months ago.

The hurdle for developer Ross Rulney is rezoning of the property. Right now, the property does not allow the size of the apartment buildings Rulney hopes to build on the north, south and east sides.

Rulney purchased the property in September 2016 from the nuns for nearly $6 million with plans to building a large apartment complex on the grounds. In a reported agreement with the monastery's nuns, Rulney vowed to not demolish the monastery building.

Poster has worked on a handful of preservation developments in Tucson. He said he joined this project because he knew how important the monastery is to the community.  He stressed there were never any plans to demolish the building.

"This building has been here before Marimonte neighborhood was here and before Sam Hughes was here, so it is part of the landscape, part of their history, part of the spiritual aspects of the neighborhood," said Poster.

"To me this symbolizes the heart of Tucson, it's kinda what makes Tucson worthy of our affection," said Claire O'Connor, who lives about a half mile from the monastery.  She has lived in Midtown with her husband, Ken Plattner, for more than a decade.

"It's a sacred place, it's just an island of serenity in the middle of all this craziness," said Plattner.

"You know, money rules," said O'Connor. "Not everybody has the same sensitivity to these kind of treasures."

The renderings shown Thursday lowered the apartment buildings on the north and south side of the monastery from eight to six stories, with the building on the east side lowered to four stories. That includes a level of covered parking, for a total of 222 units and 331 parking spaces.

But for the city, that may not be enough.

"We negotiated, they are now down to about 66 feet, that's still halfway up the top of the steeple," said Kozachik.  "It's still too massive for the area, it's out of context. I hope we can continue this conversations, bring the massing down some more."

Several residents also shared concerns over the parking problems that could come with the apartments. The apartment proposal includes 220 units, made up of one- and two-bedroom apartments, as well as 331 parking spaces.

Thursday's neighborhood meeting was the first step in what could be a long process for rezoning, called planned area development, or PAD. Poster said the developer will submit the plans to the city to be approved by the Mayor and City Council, expected to take four to five months.

If approved, Poster said they can continue the process for tailored zoning, meaning the city would rezone the area to the approved design.

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