St. Ambrose withdraws request to build dorm

By Celine Klosterman

DAVENPORT –St. Ambrose University withdrew a request Aug. 4 to build a 200-bed dorm at Harrison and Lombard streets, after city staff expressed concern about the impact of the proposed building on the neighborhood.

Mike Poster, the university’s vice president for finance, said St. Ambrose will be better equipped to address concerns after it completes its master plan and parking study beginning late this year. Study results will be available in spring 2011.

“At that time we’ll go back to the Zoning Board of Adjustment with our plans,” Poster said.

The board was slated to vote Aug. 4 on granting a special-use permit to build the dorm. City staff recommended denying the request.

Adding the dorm as proposed could worsen the problem of student parking in surrounding neighborhoods, according to a report by city planner Ryan Rusnak. The report said the residence hall would require an additional 100 parking spaces. 

St. Ambrose proposed adding three parking lots with a total of 114 spaces for resident students on property it owns west of Gaines Street and south of High Street. But the university hasn’t requested a special-use permit for the lots. So city staff could not consider the lots in making a recommendation on the dorm.

Earlier plans St. Ambrose made to provide more on-campus parking for resident students aren’t sufficient, according to Rusnak’s report. Those plans include reassigning 60 faculty/staff spaces near the Rogalski Center for resident students, since 60 spaces for faculty and staff will be available at the new health sciences center at Genesis Medical Center. Also, about 30 staff spaces north of Davis Hall will move to the university’s Professional Arts building on Brady and Locust streets, which will open up 30 more spaces on campus for students.

But the proposed dorm would eliminate 83 resident parking spaces. So St. Ambrose’s plans result in a net gain of just seven resident spaces, Rusnak noted.

City staff suggested St. Ambrose consider prohibiting freshmen from bringing cars to campus, constructing a parking ramp and taking advantage of the Harrison Street parking ramp downtown, about a mile from campus.

Staff “would not support St. Ambrose University’s continued expansion of surface parking lots, particularly in intact residential blocks,” Rusnak wrote.

St. Ambrose believes additional parking lots would benefit the neighborhood by easing on-street parking congestion, Poster said. He suggested faculty, staff and students may choose not to use a downtown parking ramp in favor of spaces closer to the university. He also has said St. Ambrose finds freshmen need cars to travel to jobs, and an on-campus parking ramp would be expensive, pose security concerns and displease neighbors.

The university wants to build a new dorm to accommodate existing students. About 200 students wanted to live on campus this coming year but cannot, Poster said.

Housing more students on campus instead of in nearby rental properties also would benefit neighbors, St. Ambrose believes. Area residents have voiced concerns about the behavior of students living off-campus.

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