‘The Village’ student community – last call for Craftsman’s Mall?

An overhead image of the Craftman’s Mall on St. Louis Road.

Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union

ARCATA – A new housing project will, if created as designed, give 800 students modern new accommodations near Humboldt State. It will also transform a centrally located but relatively obscure 11 acres from industrial to residential, increasing Arcata’s population by 4.5 percent.

“The Village,” which would be sited on St. Louis Road west of U.S. Highway 101, is one of a half-dozen new central Arcata housing projects proposed by various developers, all in different stages of planning. Proposed by Agoura Hills-based AMCAL Equities LLC, and its development partner, Coleraine Capital Group, The Village was introduced at a community meeting at the D Street Neighborhood Center last Wednesday, April 12.

The proposed layout for The Village.

According to information from Arcata’s Streamline Planning Consultants, The Village is a “purpose-built,” 240-unit, 800 bed community comprised of four four-story buildings. Non-freshman students will be offered 11-and-a half-month leases on two-, three- and four-bedroom “pods” with shared kitchens and living rooms.

On-site management and security will be augmented by student assistants, with stringent rules regulating behavior.

Each building includes an interior courtyard, while the grounds will include a community garden, fitness center, internet café, game room, movie theater and outdoor recreation courts.

With that many upperclassmen, access and circulation are major concerns. Some 369 parking spots, including EV charging stations are planned, as are  a new bus stop and trail.

Current mall with overlay of planned changes.

A traffic study encompassing all the area housing projects has been conducted and is online at cityofarcata.org, along with other development documents. The Village will require an Environmental Impact Report and a General Plan amendment and zone reclassification under a Planned Development permit. This will entail many opportunities for public comment as the project wends its way through various city bodies, including the Planning Commission.

The Village will bring major change both to its site and adjoining neighborhoods, including Westwood Village to the west and Eye Street to the south. The 11-acre Craftsman’s Mall is a longtime industrial area, just down St. Louis Road from Beaver Lumber. It once hosted a lumber mill, and presently consists of a number of utilitarian buildings in various states of repair. The mall has been a regulatory nightmare for the city for years, with numerous ongoing code violations.

The late Russell Kirkpatrick was somewhat successful in implementing his vision of a diversified industrial colony for various kinds of trades, artisans and craftspeople. Following his death, however, the heirs have been interested in selling the property, and the once-bustling “corperation yard,” [sic] as its sign describes it, has waned in popularity.

Present and former tenants say it has been known the end is coming, so some businesses relocated to more sustainable locations. But many remain, including a few residents, some mechanics and woodworkers, cannabis processors, a few “extension cord growers,” (as one tenant put it) and other miscellaneous tradesfolk. Numerous storage containers are heaped at the site, some rented out. All in all, though, the windblown mall has a semi-deserted bleakness about it compared to just 10 years ago.

A conceptual drawing of The Village.

The community meeting

Coleraine President David Moon, who made last week’s presentation, opened by extolling The Village’s many state-of-the-art features. He said while it’s still being costed out, comparable student communities created by AMCAL are valued at $60 million to $80 million.

As would be expected of a project of such a scale, neighbors are concerned about a range of impacts. These include building heights, which will most directly affect Maple Lane, which borders the site’s west side; drainage and runoff; police response; loss of incubator businesses; sound and light pollution; intensified parking and traffic; pet proliferation; solid waste; size and scale; and more.

Moon said computer simulations of views from Maple Lane will be available when the project reaches the Planning Commission, as will photometric lighting studies.

While a few citizens seemed amenable to the project, many were not. “It’s going to be a pretty ugly nuisance for us,” said one. Some suggested that the project be downsized, though Moon said the project doesn’t pencil out at lower capacity.

Some of the 50 or so attendees were irked that they hadn’t received notice of the Wednesday meeting, having learned through a last-minute blurb in the Union or via “the grapevine.”

Streamline Planning had sent out 65 letters, but only to adjacent property owners. There was no official online notice to the community.

Moon told the crowd that he hadn’t intended for many of those present to participate in the meeting. He said what was intended as only a small-scale “neighborhood meeting” was “misconstrued in a newspaper article.” However, the Streamline letter describes the gathering as a “community meeting,” which Moon acknowledged.

Moon later said that they hadn’t widely advertised the meeting because the public might have misperceived it as covering all six pending housing projects.

Moon said The Village’s management practices will be modeled after the other similar student housing projects AMCAL/Coleraine manages, which are largely problem-free.

“We’re really proud of what we do,” he said. “Our lease agreements and rules and regulations were developed by the company that manages our student housing properties, Asset Campus Housing. ACH is the largest third party student housing management company in the U.S., with over 30 years in the field and over 110,000 beds currently under management.”


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