The university now can begin development of the Village at Allen Ridge after the Abilene City Council approved a request to rezone the land in early September.
ACIMCO, the university’s endowment management company that manages off-campus real estate, applied to rezone the land in August. The area includes 87 acres north of Ambler Avenue previously zoned as college university/corridor overlay. In a meeting Thursday Sept. 8, the city council unanimously voted to change the zone to a planned development district.
Kelly Young, vice president for real estate development at ACIMCO, said this is just the first step with more designing and permit applications to come.
“It lets us create something that is, we believe, very attractive, vibrant, energetic for this side of town,” Young said.
With plans for restaurants, retail and high-end apartments, the Village will mean greater tax revenues for the city. It will also bring finances into the university as businesses rent the buildings or land. Young said at the council meeting, council members asked questions about signs, landscaping and how far buildings would be from the surrounding streets and neighborhoods.
“The city council was just being sure that ACU was following or in some cases exceeding the requirements for what we want to do,” Young said. “Just being sure that ACU as a big institution in this town is playing by the rules.”
Of the seven city council members, four declared conflicts of interest in accordance with state laws. Anthony Williams, works for the university as chief business services officer, Shane Price and Kyle McAllister both have wives who work at ACU, and Bruce Kreitler’s company, Broken Willow Tree Service, does business with ACU. Mcallister said state laws require council members to sign a declaration of any financial conflicts of interest. However, the laws also require at least four councilmen to vote to approve a motion, so they were still able to vote for the rezoning.
“We are always looking for new development in the city of Abilene,” Mcallister said. “We as a council just want to make sure that we can do what we can do grow Abilene, to bring new businesses in, hopefully one of many votes to come to encourage growth in the city.”
Young said a growing number of universities are undertaking similar developments, among them Rice University, Princeton University, Arizona State University, Washington University in St. Louis and more.
“More and more universities are seeing that to attract students and faculty, that they need to have areas around campus that are vibrant and energetic,” Young said.
Some parts of the project will be financed by the university, but each project will be different, Young said. The development has been in the works for almost two years with ACIMCO working with BVTD LLC of Dallas to determine the feasibility of the project. The plan was officially announced in May 2015.