A crowd of nearly 100 people crowded into the gymnasium at Meadow Park Church of God on Bethel Road on March 6.

They gathered in anticipation of a vote by the Northwest Civic Association board of trustees on a controversial office building-apartment complex proposed for the 5000 block of Reed Road.

At the outset of the hearing, however, the developer announced the plan still was being reworked in an effort to address criticisms of nearby neighbors.

That didn't stop a handful of them from voicing their objections to any version of the project that includes 3-story buildings and multifamily structures.

The proposal for a new headquarters building for the Burgess & Niple civil-engineering firm and 180 one- and two-bedroom apartments in five 3-story buildings at 5085 Reed Road first came before the NWCA at a standing-room-only meeting Feb. 6.

At that session, Preferred Living chief development officer Jared Smith agreed -- in the face of strident opposition from nearby residents -- to delay seeking a vote from the board until the March meeting.

The large turnout was why the March session was moved to the church gym.

The project also was the subject of a special meeting held Feb. 20 and might be the focus of yet another special session prior to April 4.

"I hear everyone loud and clear," Smith said after announcing he again was requesting that no formal vote be taken by the trustees.

Smith said he wanted to not only redesign the project to reduce some of the neighborhood angst but also provide time for a full review of the new iteration prior to the April meeting.

"I'm trying to push, as much as I can, the buildings away from the single-family (houses)," he said. "I'm happy to answer specific questions, to meet with anybody tonight or at any time."

Ted Jones, a resident of the area since 1977 who said he is a developer with 35 years of experience, pulled no punches in assessing the Reed Road proposal.

"It is one of the worst-conceived development proposals I've ever seen," he told Smith.

"We oppose this project completely," Stephen Donnell said.

The density is too high, as are the buildings, he said, and the presence of that many apartments is bound to result in higher crime, straining city services.

"Northwest Park will become a doggy bathroom, which will attract rats," Donnell said.

"One of my thoughts is what about putting single-family living homes in this space?" Maria Fisher said. "That will aesthetically follow what we're used to seeing. They want to be able to squeeze ... and get as much out of this land as possible."

NWCA President Nick Cipiti suggested the idea of a second special meeting, with no date set yet, at which the trustees and nearby residents would be able to review the alternative design proposals from Preferred Living.

"We can have some discussion and hear it out before the April meeting," Cipiti said.