By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Several hundred new residential units – many of them student-oriented – are in various stages of development along current or proposed routes of Oxford-University Transit (OUT) buses.
The University of Mississippi’s massive growth in enrollment and the resulting increase in demand for student housing has been one of the bright spots in Oxford’s real estate market over the past several years. Transit use has increased even more rapidly, with students and employees of the university constituting the vast majority of ridership, which topped 40,000 in March.
“Forty thousand is good, but it’s down a little bit due to spring break,” said system manager Ron Biggs. “Without spring break, we’d probably have had another 10,000 riders.”
Oxford Planning Commission recommended approval this week of a design for The Retreat, a development on Anderson Road in west Oxford. With more than 25 acres and multi-family zoning, the site is eligible for 366 units but will include only 160.
“It will be single-family units – kind of a student subdivision,” said Assistant City Planner Katrina Hourin. “There will be lots of green space.”
While OUT routes do not yet reach that far west, developers have offered to pay $12,500 annually toward extending service.
Commissioners also recommended approval for a special exception that would allow mixed-use zoning for Blackberry Hills, a 262-acre planned urban development touching Molly Barr Road and Cristman Drive. One portion of that, The Highlands, plans to create a New Urbanist community that includes a “town square” blending retail, residential and recreational uses.
Because the transit route already goes near the development, a $10,000 voluntary annual transportation contribution from its developers would be used for the city’s bike trails, which already serve the location.
Other developments already approved include Taylor Bend, which will offer a total of 96 new student apartments in two phases on Old Taylor Road, and Molly Barr Trails, which will open 72 units on Molly Barr Road this summer. Ashworth Village will be a 200-unit development on Anderson Road.
Oxford City Planner Tim Akers said the push for more student housing near transit routes is a predictable result of more people and cars at Ole Miss.
“They’re recognizing that it’s hard to park on campus,” he said. “This is a great way to commute.”