The University of Kentucky’s Coldstream Research Park wants the county to allow it to add homes, apartments and townhomes to the 735-acre office and research park. The change will allow the park to attract more businesses, park officials said this week.
Coldstream wants Fayette County to change its zoning language to allow for up to 25 percent of the park to become residential. It is also asking for some other tweaks to what is allowed in the office, industrial, research park or P-2 zone. Some of the other changes include allowing for more density by requiring less green space around buildings and eliminating a requirement that all lots be 5 acres.
The text amendment was scheduled to be heard at the Urban County Planning Commission’s Dec. 15 meeting. Coldstream Research officials have asked that it be postponed until the commission’s Feb. 23 meeting as they make tweaks to the proposal, said George Ward, the executive director of the park. Ward said last week that the details of those changes are still being hammered out. But the park is considering changing the percentage of residential development that would be allowed in the park, Ward said.
Adding more homes and apartments will attract more businesses, Coldstream officials said in their request to the planning commission.
“Multifamily housing will allow for the creation of a dynamic-Live-Work-Play-Learn environment to provide the social infrastructure necessary to drive the development of office and R & D facilities,” wrote Ward in his application for the P-2 zone change.
Coldstream applied for the zone text amendment on Oct. 31.
Although the buildings in Coldstream have a 95 percent occupancy, the research park still has more than 200 acres available for development. More than 2,350 people work in the park for more than 56 different organizations. The research park on Newtown Pike near Interstate 64 and Interstate 75 has struggled over the years to attract pharmaceutical and other research and development companies.
The model — an isolated park with little or no shopping or restaurants — no longer works, Ward said.
The only place to eat on the campus is the Paddock Grille at the Embassy Suites Hotel. Food trucks come twice a week.
“The reason why business want to locate in a research campus is to have access to talent — the researchers at the university and the students, graduate students and post-doctorate students,” Ward said.
But young people do not want to work in isolated research parks.
“The trend for millennials is to live close to where you work,” Ward said.
Adding homes and apartments will help the park attract restaurants and other retail, Ward said. And retail and restaurants can generate enough sales tax revenue to make tax increment financing successful. In 2011, the General Assembly passed a bill that would allow university research parks to use tax increment financing, which uses taxes generated from new development to pay for infrastructure costs such as building new roads.
“For TIFs to work, they need sales taxes,” Ward said. “Restaurants can generate that type of sales taxes.”
So far, there has been little or no opposition to the proposed text amendment, city planning staff and Ward have said. The Fayette Alliance, a nonprofit that advocates for farmland preservation and frequently weighs in on proposed changes to zone text amendments, has not yet taken a position on the proposed changes to the P-2 zone.
The proposed text amendment must be passed first by the planning commission and the council before UK could proceed with development. Currently, Coldstream is the only P-2 zone in Fayette County.
The changes to the P-2 zone are similar to proposed changes to the text for the economic development zones. Those areas were added to the urban service boundary in 1996 but have not yet been developed. Approximately 350 acres of economic development zone land is close to Coldstream on the other side of Interstate 64 and Interstate 75. The proposed changes to the economic development zone would allow for townhomes and apartments on that land. Currently, residential is prohibited in that area.
The economic development text amendment has already been approved by the planning commission. The Urban County Council will hold a public hearing Feb. 9 to discuss the controversial changes. Those who back the changes say they are needed because people no longer want to work in isolated office parks where there is no place to eat, shop or live. Those who oppose it say that land was set aside for economic development projects that were supposed to create high-paying jobs. Allowing more residential on that land eats up available land for industrial and business uses, opponents argue.