A second phase of The Haven, a 250 unit apartment and condominium complex in Celebrate Virginia South, received the approval of the Fredericksburg Plannng Commission last night. The special use permit was approved by a vote of 5-2, with Planning Commission Chairman Roy McAFee and Vice-Chair Roy Gratz voting against the project. The second phase now needs the approval of the Fredericksburg City Council before work can commence.
Last night's meeting was notable for the detail with which developers discussed the demographic makeup of future Haven residents and fiscal impact of the development on the city. Developers presented the project as one which would provide the city with long term economic benefits by offering good housing to lure employers and skilled workers.
"Housing is an economic tool," said Dr. Stephen Fuller, a George Mason University professor and financial analyst retained by the developers. "Communities that have high quality housing are going to be able to attract high value jobs."
The first phase of The Haven, a 231 unit apartment and condominium development, is undergoing finishing touches before it opens in July. City officials have previously expressed concerns that the new residential complex would bring an influx of families with school age children, increasing the burden on local schools and municipal services. Previous estimates by city staff forecast that the development would bring in close to 100 children.
However, Ben Graves, president of the multifamily residential division of Johnson Development Associates , says that the true number has turned out to be much lower. With 82 percent of all units and all three bedroom units at The Haven: Phase I already leased, Graves reported to the commission that so far only 16 school-age children are signed up with their families to move in. Most of the leaseholders are in their late 20s and childless.
Other demographic data of current Haven leaseholders included locality information. Graves reported that 89 percent of leaseholders are moving from outside the city, coming from 24 different states. 31 percent of leaseholders already live within five miles of Fredericksburg.
Graves said that the average income of new leaseholders so far is $82,000 per year. Residents of the first phase of The Haven are also largely working in professional services or health care. Seven leaseholders are employees with the City of Fredericksburg.
Analyzing the financial impact of the project, Fuller told the commission that the project will generate 280 local jobs during construction, generating about $12.5 million in local payroll spending. After construction, Fuller estimated that the residents will have a total annual income of about $20 million, $5 million of which can be expected to be spent locally.
With little discussion, the special use permit allowing Phase Two of The Haven was passed by a vote of 5-2, with Chairman Roy McaFee and Vic-Chair Roy Gratz voting against the project.
Later in the meeting, during an open commissioner comment period, Gratz explained his nay vote, saying that building large apartment complexes runs counter to city goals of raising home ownership rates in Fredericksburg.
"We are creating a heck of a lot of rental properties here in the city," said Gratz. "There is no way we are going to be improving home ownership in the city with what we keep approving here."