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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Councilman wants to ban Main Gate Square balconies

Alex McIntyre

The Hub On Campus Tucson 2, an apartment building under construction geared toward UA students, stands adjacent to the Hub At Tucson, another student-focused high-rise apartment complex, on Sunday, March 27. A series of incidents involving students throwing trash and bottles from apartment balconies has made the Hub and other complexes near it centers of controversy during the past years.

The misconduct of a few students in apartments with balconies might lead to the banning of building any more balconies in the Main Gate Square area.

Sixth Ward Tucson City Council member Steve Kozachik proposed that all future infrastructure in the Main Gate area — the area on University Boulevard between Tyndall and Park Avenues — should not be allowed to have outfacing balconies above the third floor.

This ban would apply to future development in the area, not current structures.

The proposal came after a series of incidents in which students living in surrounding apartments threw items off their balconies on to the Islamic Center of Tucson that sits below.

This issue made national news in the New York Times in February. Many said they believed the hurling of objects in the direction of the Islamic Center was racially or religiously motivated.

Whatever the intention, Kozachik said he fears for the safety of people in the area.

“I’m not inclined to wait until someone gets seriously injured or killed by a bottle flying off the 10th floor,” Kozachik said.

The proposal, which the rest of the council agreed on, is now with the planning commission and will progress from there.

It would mean that all future infrastructure in the Main Gate area could not have outfacing balconies above the third floor. Kozachik said the buildings can have balconies facing their inner courtyards.

He said he tried working with the property management company of Sol Y Luna, GMH Capital Partners, to close off the balconies to students in the upcoming school year, but was refused.

Bruce Pilarczyk, senior vice president of marketing for GMH, said the situation has been challenging.

“We don’t want to penalize 99 percent of the population of our community because of the acts of a few,” Pilarczyk said. “The challenge with all of these situations is that it all comes down to the responsibility of the tenant. We don’t tolerate it at our property no matter what and we’ve evicted students because of it.”

Popular read: New high rises cast long shadow: Addition of new high-rise apartment complexes has been a less-than-welcome one.

Pilarczyk added that balconies are a selling point for student housing and it would be unfair to close them off to everyone because of a few incidents.

On the other hand, Kozachik said he thinks the owners are making a mistake and said he currently has the city attorney in agreement to file criminal nuisance charges against the owners, not tenants, if something like this were to happen again.

He also said if that was not sufficient, then the city would take them to a superior court and let a judge decide.

“It’s unfortunate that the present ownership recognizes the fact that this has happened now each of the years [a] new student population shows up,” Kozachik said. “We’ve had too many near misses and unfortunately this is not what Arizona Wildcats do. This is not reflective of the UA student population.”

Roey Reiss, a pre-physiology sophomore, is a student living in the Hub at Tucson, one of the buildings with balconies in the Main Gate area. Next year, she plans to live in Hub On Campus 2, which is in the process of being built. Hub 2 will not be affected by Kozachik’s proposal and Reiss plans to live in a unit that has a balcony.

“They are a great way to relax after a busy day of classes,” Reiss said. “However, some students feel the need to use these inappropriately. … It is the apartment’s responsibility to keep the public safe. They can do this through increasing security and punishments for students that misuse the balcony instead of taking that privilege from everyone.”

Pilarczyk said GMH was not informed there was an issue until it was already in the news. He said they would have been quicker to act if they had known earlier.

“I think as a whole, our community is a bunch of smart, responsible students there for the right reasons and want to live somewhere where they can focus on their studies and enjoy a fun place that’s got a lot of community events,” Pilarczyk said. “Unfortunately, a couple of students made a couple of poor choices one night and now we’re all talking about it.”

Follow Leah Merrall on Twitter.

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