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New 30-story, high-rise to save historic oak trees — and Becks Prime: Old apartments in danger though

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Steel Street with mature trees August 2014
Hanover Co. is hoping to save five mature oak trees on the north side of Steel Street, the site for its proposed Hanover River Oaks development. Photo by Shelby Hodge
Variance sign for Hanover River Oaks August 2014
Hanover Co.'s notice of the variance request on the proposed construction site. Photo by Shelby Hodge
Beck Prime on Kirby Drive August 2014
Beck Prime on Kirby Drive will not be affected by the proposed complex. Photo by Shelby Hodge
Steel Street with mature trees August 2014
Variance sign for Hanover River Oaks August 2014
Beck Prime on Kirby Drive August 2014

Tree huggers have reason to celebrate. But residents of a low-key apartment complex that dates back to 1949 may not be so thrilled.

A local developer is taking extra steps to save a rich canopy of mature trees at the site of a proposed new 30-story, multi-purpose high-rise bounded by Kirby Drive and Kipling and Steel streets in the Upper Kirby district. Saving the Kirby Court Apartment complex — or at least a major chunk of it — does not appear to be in the cards though.

The property under question, which will be called Hanover River Oaks, includes a large portion of the site where Kirby Court now sits — and Swamplot reports that the apartment owner is no longer renewing leases or renting empty apartments. The new high-rise will extend into the block between Kipling and Steel streets from Kirby Drive but does not include Becks Prime. (Fans of the popular burger spot joint that opened on Kirby in 1985 need not worry.) The site is across the street from a Whole Foods.

 In a green twist, Hanover's variance request proposes to reduce the building line by 10 feet along Kirby and five feet along Kipling — all in the name of keeping the trees. 

Applicant Brown & Gay Engineers Inc., on behalf of builder Hanover Co., submitted the variance request on Monday to the city's planning department for the Hanover River Oaks development.

In a green twist, Hanover's variance request proposes to reduce the building line by 10 feet along Kirby and five feet along Kipling — all in the name of keeping the trees.

"The 1.65-acre site currently has five large oak trees with diameters varying from 26 inches to 35 inches along the south boundary being Steel Street," the variance states. "The proposed development desires to preserve the five large oak trees by shifting the proposed development north and reducing the building line along Kipling Street."

In addition, the variance proposes to improve the pedestrian traffic along Kirby Dive and Kipling Street with sidewalks and 3-inch caliper oak trees. The developer has secured a letter of support from the Upper Kirby District.

"Economic hardship is not the justification of the variance," the document states. "Preservation of the five large oaks trees and the improved pedestrian realms along Kirby Drive, Kipling Street and Steel streets will only increase the cost of the proposed development."

Hanover River Oaks would include more than 300 units. Ground-floor retail, most likely restaurants, is a possibility.

Architecture firm Solomon Cordwell Buenz is designing the new building.

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