From Texas Tech Public Media:
Tonja Hagy Valdine has lived in houses around Lubbock. But she found a home in South Overton.
“I was thrilled because I was moving back into older Lubbock,” she said. “It was like coming home. We found our house on Avenue X a little over three years ago, almost four now, and it was the perfect setup.”
So perfect that Valdine bought another house a few blocks away that she renovated into a vacation rental. It’s a welcoming yellow cottage with colorful decor. Valdine has invested a lot of time and money into this 1934 home.
“We started a full house remodel in October,” Valdine said. “The house has been completely replumbed. We paid to have someone paint the outside. And then my wife and I did all the rest of it ourselves.”
Through all of this, Valdine has gotten to know one of the oldest residential neighborhoods in Lubbock. Some of South Overton’s homes date back to the early 1900s, older than the city itself. While it’s right across from growing Texas Tech University, the brick roads and classic architecture haven’t changed much.
Valdine has also gotten to know her neighbors. Like senior citizens who have lived in one house for most of their lives. Parents whose kids play in the front yard while they watch from the porch. College students who lend helping hands.
With immense love for her community, Valdine is one neighbor concerned about a proposed student housing complex that could come to South Overton. The high-rise apartments would house 700 students in the space of a street block.
While there are several large apartments like this nearby, none are in South Overton.
The seven-story building would go between University Avenue and Avenue X, and 14th and 15th Streets.
Renderings from Austin-based development company Parallel show a large white and gray building with many windows and a few ground-floor townhomes. It includes a parking garage, but the complex is 91 spots short of parking requirements in Lubbock. Developers said they have nearby land that could be turned into additional parking if needed, but parking on streets is common in this area.
For the project to move forward, the area will have to be rezoned by the City of Lubbock. It was the big agenda item at July’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting. The commissioners voted 4-3 to approve the change and pass the request up to the city council.
South Overton is on the National Register of Historic Places, which gives it some protections. But the large housing project is just outside the historic district’s boundaries.
Kenneth Abraham said he has dreamt of bringing high-rise living to Lubbock for decades.
The 82-year-old owns Paddle Tramps, a Greek Life store on the edge of South Overton. His line of business has taken him to college towns across the country, inspiring him to develop student housing.
He’s spent years buying up property with this project in mind. So much land, that when the city alerted nearby residents of the zone change request, almost all notices went to Abraham.
“When students come in and look at Texas Tech, they look at the housing also. This is first-class housing,” Abraham told the Planning and Zoning Commission. “In my opinion, there’s absolutely no way in the world this can hurt anything else.”
But many who call South Overton home disagree. They shared a long list of reasons why they oppose the project at the zone case hearing. Homeowners like Ted Hogan said they want new developments in their neighborhood, just not of this size.
“It’s entirely incompatible, it is entirely out of scale,” Hogan said while a rendering showed the apartment building compared to the houses around it. “I had a good laugh the other day because someone called that a cruise ship, that it looked like a cruise ship. Which, frankly, I think is brilliant.”
Commenters said the character of the neighborhood is at stake. There is concern this project could lead to others that would make South Overton look more like its northern sister neighborhood. North Overton’s single-family homes there were replaced with student housing and businesses after the neighborhood deteriorated over many years. While some have celebrated the development as a transformative success, critics say it displaced underprivileged residents and erased history.
Beyond aesthetics, residents are worried about what adding hundreds of people to the area will do to its aging infrastructure. Developers said they will update service lines. There are also concerns about traffic, parking and safety on narrow streets.
Still, after three hours of comments and discussion, the Planning and Zoning Commission voted in favor of the zone change request. Kenneth Abraham cried tears of joy and hugged his family after the vote.
That night, Jenna and John LaFreniere couldn’t sleep. They live close to the proposed apartment site.
“We were so stunned by the outcome,” Jenna said. “After three hours of hearing people passionately provide good arguments and disagree with it, and to still get voted down was, I think, so unsettling to us.”
The couple followed a similarly controversial student housing project in Tech Terracethat made it this far in the zoning process earlier in the year. In that case, the city council voted against the request.
They’re not sure what will happen this time.
“If the city council thinks that this project as it stands today is the right answer, oh my word, they are so wrong,” John said.
Now, they are holding their breaths until Aug. 22. That is when the city council is expected to hear the zone change request for the first time.