The Berkley City Council on July 16 denied the planned unit development application by Berkley-Coolidge LLC to build “The Berkley” apartment project at the site of the former Our Lady of La Salette School.

The Berkley City Council on July 16 denied the planned unit development application by Berkley-Coolidge LLC to build “The Berkley” apartment project at the site of the former Our Lady of La Salette School.

Photo by Mike Koury


Berkley council rejects application for La Salette School apartment project

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published July 25, 2018

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BERKLEY — A final nail into the coffin seemingly has been placed into a proposed project that would have been built on the site of the former Our Lady of La Salette School.

The Berkley City Council unanimously denied the planned unit development application by Berkley-Coolidge LLC to build an apartment complex where the school is located, 2219 Coolidge Highway, at its July 16 meeting.

The development of “The Berkley” has been ongoing for close to two years, Mayor Dan Terbrack said. In his opinion, the length of time that it took the project to get to the July 16 vote “should never have happened.”

“It’s not fair to the developer,” he said. “It’s not fair to the residents who … are passionately involved in this. It’s not fair to city staff. It’s not fair for the owner of the property. We should’ve been able to come to a decision much sooner than this.”

Terbrack said he believes that part of the reason why this project has been a lightning rod is because it impacts Our Lady of La Salette Roman Catholic Church, which many residents are parishioners of and which has been around for almost 100 years.

The mayor himself is one of those parishioners, and also was the principal of the school when it shut down in 2013. He said he cares deeply about the church, but what happened was the conversation became a parishioner versus nonparishioner argument. 

“In my opinion, (that) does not help any conversation, any discussion, any development that we’re talking about. And that’s the part that really bothers me. It should not be an us-versus-them situation in our city. It never should’ve come to that,” he said.

Terbrack said he applauds the developer’s persistence in working on the project and how the developer came back many times to try and make something that met the city’s vision for what everyone wants.

“This project is not that project, in my opinion,” he said. “The size and scale is just quite simply too large to align with our vision for Coolidge.”

“We want development. … It will be beneficial for the church to not have a vacant, empty, old school and parking lot. It will be nice for the residents to have, potentially, a nice new building. Something that’s, as I mentioned, set the tone for future development on Coolidge. Those are things that we need and we want, and we want to work with this developer or ... the next developer, whoever it is, to try and create that ideal, that vision — the vision that we have.”

Before the vote, Keith Owen, a representative of Berkley-Coolidge LLC, said the design and development team met and worked diligently with the consultant that was hired by the city to review this project — Richard Carlisle, of Carlisle/Wortman Associates — as well as Community Development Director Timothy McLean to come up with alternatives about how the project could be modified.

He laid out specifications of the project that Berkley-Coolidge brought before the council, such as the 129 units with 13 different housing types and increased open space, but he ended by saying they believed that the project met the requirements for a PUD approval.

“We think the housing type we’re talking about is consistent with ... how we interpreted the master plan for this project. I think this community wants and probably really needs a housing of this type,” he said. “Quite frankly, we believe the Carlisle/Wortman report supports the fact that we met those stipulations and worked diligently to try to achieve that. I think it’s unfortunate that the Planning Commission chose to vote the project down. Clearly the sentiment of council seems to be that way, but this site desperately needs a development, and it needs a development as housing, and there needs to be a path that’s more direct and less filled with roadblocks than this one has been.”

Terbrack said at the meeting that the application would not be sent back to the Planning Commission, and City Manager Matthew Baumgarten told the Woodward Talk that the city has not been contacted by the developers on what they plan to do next or if they plan to reapply.

A representative of the developers could not be reached for comment on their next move.

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