A constituent emailed a link to this discussion asking about this project. I’m reluctant to post here for several reasons but mostly because some time ago I was emailed a link to an outrageous and sensational report that Alex Ihnen made about Oakland and Kingshighway on Nextstl. When I posted to refute it and try to stop unfounded rumors my post was deleted within minutes.
I was shocked to think that someone portraying themselves as a “quasi” journalist would delete a response from a policy maker making an “on the record” comment.
I’m not sure what Alex’s motivation was but since I noticed that Urbanstl is now separate from Nextstl, and in the hopes that they welcome free speech and the open exchange of ideas and will not edit or delete “on the record” comments from policy makers I thought I might try to shed some light on this project..
It is not my policy to comment on non public developments, but since Pace posted on their website I feel ok to share the following:
1. This is very far from being a real deal!
2. The site plan posted on the website is for Pace’s marketing purposes only. No site plan has been approved or agreed to, and as of my last meeting with Pace several months ago, they had no tenant commitment.
3. In the last 5-7 years I have had several retail developers that have expressed interest in the site, and in each case I passed because of how the project would treat Forest Park. While I have been sometimes pressured to do the quick deal, I haven’t been in a hurry because the 17th ward has been fortunate to have many projects in the pipeline and I feel with each new successful development, and corresponding increase in density, I can be more demanding,
4. Pace is well aware of this history and secured site control and offered as a “minimum” to provide massing on Forest Park and pedestrian access from Forest Park.
5. We have only a few St. Louis based retail developers, and since Pace’s Boulevard project is in my opinion the best example of new dense urban retail, I felt it made sense for them to test the market.
6. After they get an indication of interest and a better idea of tenant mix and a firmer grip of the economics we agreed to revisit the site plan.
7. Many factors will influence the site plan and whether parking is decked—will retailers agree to a 4/1000sf parking ratio instead of 4.5/1000 sf because of the changing neighborhood and hoped for metro stop, can a residential developer be attracted to the site, tenant mix, but mostly economics.
8. The cost differential of a structured versus a surface parking space is the range of $100-150 per month forever! For just 500 parking spaces that is an additional $600,000 to $900,000 per year forever!
9. If the tenant mix and the dynamics of the project are such the developer wants to put in structured parking, then great. If not and we are requiring them to put in structured parking, they will be looking to recover that cost through some form of public assistance.
10. The city’s planning department began several months ago researching examples of new retail in neighborhoods of other cities with comparable density.
11. Should the project progress, I will likely assemble a group of vested parties whose opinions I respect to participate in the decision process.
Some other thoughts:
1. Retailing can be a huge source of incremental revenue. All the new incremental revenue inside the Cortex TIF district will (at least in the early years) be committed to the huge capital and infrastructure costs associated with paying for the planned Metro stop, greenway etc.
2. This project is outside the Cortex TIF district. That means some of that increment may be up for grabs if not all consumed by the project.
Now in response to Alex’s comment:
by Alex Ihnen » Tue Jul 30, 2013 12:28 pm
^ Right. And Roddy claimed that he was waiting for "something special". Who's going to break it to him?
While good urban design can create value you don’t know that until you first understand the economics. When I said something special I meant the area of Cortex, SLU, CWE, and FPSE. I anticipate over $4 Billion in development/construction between WUMC and Cortex. I also anticipate very significant investments in each of the other neighborhoods of the 17th ward. Some of these projects take years to advance. I secured the first grant for Cortex (then called Technopolis) almost 25 years ago and I got the first grant for the Metro stop almost 12 years ago. It took years to plan and complete the Manchester and Sarah infrastructure projects. The Euclid project is still in the making.
Regarding this project, one of our choices might be to have decked parking, and a center with outstanding urban design or it might be creating an urban design floor (a minimum standard) and then milking the “big box” cow by letting them keep their surface parking and taking the revenue increment to fund another need within the district that will move it forward in the goal of creating a car optional neighborhood. This is just one of the many alternatives that will be under consideration. These are complex issues--can CID, TTD money be spent on operations instead of capital? Can CID and TTD money be spent outside their districts? What are the costs and benefits of some of the alternative needs/wants for the district.
Going forward you should know—I/we—through Cortex have access to some of the most respected urban planners in the country and I am hoping to have access to an equally regarded parking/transportation consultant to assist in quantifying the costs of various tradeoffs of parking and transportation.
Finally, Alex may love breaking news, but his reporting on projects in my ward has been far from accurate and full of speculation. He hasn’t bothered to check the facts with me or to my knowledge anyone in a policy making position.
I enjoy discussing urban redevelopment and spent much of my life working towards it. If you have questions regarding projects in the 17th ward, I would encourage you to contact me directly (or the staff at Park Central) and I will do the best I can to get back to you (As a policy I do not discuss projects that are not public or are at the confidential stage). I understand if everyone doesn't agree with my decisions but I only ask you provide me the courtesy you provide other posters and don't delete or edit my replies.
Alderman 17th Ward