In the wake of the Zoning Board of Adjustment's vote yesterday not to grant Uplift Education the parking waiver it requested on Elm Street, in the old Baylor offices in Deep Ellum, I spoke with some staffers in Sustainable Development about why they changed their minds. Because initially, city staff had recommended denying the charter school's request to reduce their parking-spot requirement from 229 to 180 spots. But that, they say now, was due in large part to the fact Uplift and its reps at City Hall failed to provide them with a parking study explaining why they needed the variance. Docs filed with the board earlier said only that "given the land use patterns, our location in proximity to a DART station and the abundance of free on-street parking during school hours, this request will not negatively affect neighboring property."
But just a few days ago Uplift dropped off a traffic study conducted by DeShazo Group, Inc., which insists that upon further review, 180 parking spaces should be more than enough -- despite the fact that at "full occupancy," the school would house 1,050 students and 65 employees. Says the doc turned into the city, which you'll find below, Uplift reps say that based on its experiences at its other campuses, "the demand for student drivers is expected to be very low"; why, it does not say. And, yes, those 65 employees may well drive to work, but given the building's proximity to a Green Line station "Uplift is seeking incentives for staff and students to use public transit."
And while some at the city aren't thrilled with the use of DISD high schools in the study below -- where, they wonder, is Uplift's Peak Preparatory on Bryan? -- they too believe 180 spots is about right. The bigger concern, they say, is traffic could get backed up along Elm, especially when the street goes two ways and bars and restaurants along Elm have their supplies dropped off. Still, they say, that shouldn't last too long -- "maybe 15 minutes in the morning, 15 minutes in the afternoon, just like around every other school in the city," says one staffer.
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Despite yesterday's developments, Uplift's not abandoning its plans for the Laureate Preperatory in Deep Ellum; it'll have to go before the board again in April. And city staffers acknowledge: This is a difficult process, no doubt, especially as the city expends time and money to turn downtown into a 24-7 liveable, walkable area. Again and again, they use the same phrase to discuss what's happening in Deep Ellum: "growing pains."Uplift Parking Study