After the former Right Dimensions partnership dissolved last summer, the City has continued to look for opportunities to resume the proposed redevelopment of the downtown block bordered by Erie, Haymaker, Depeyster and S. Water Street. Given the land assemblage challenges that proved insurmountable for the Right Dimensions team to overcome, we’ve put our focus on trying to assemble the property (either via options or outright purchase) so that we can then go out to bid for prospective developers. A year after Right Dimensions failed, I think we’ve made good progress — we’ve got options on properties and interest from all the property owners to help a project happen. I’ve copied an article from another city that gives you a flavor of what will come next. Here’s hoping…
URA votes to integrate three proposals for downtown development project (in Eugene Oregon)
The agency and City Council will merge the strengths of each developer for a diversity of ideas
By: Jason N. Reed | News Reporter
The two developers competing for the contract to redevelop a plot of downtown land will have to join workforces and even agree to accept a third proposal as the Urban Renewal Agency voted in favor of a plan that includes all three strategies Monday night.
“We had two developers with different strengths. Beam, excellent at rehabbing old buildings and KWG, excellent at doing a diverse mix of housing and retail, and this combines both of those,” city councilor Alan Zelenka said.
“And we also need to do an independent public process to give us recommendations on the preferred design elements, mix of uses of the public open spaces, options of parking and the transition plan for the existing business and this process will have an impact on what we end up doing,” he said.
The West Broadway project is a redevelopment plan proposed by the Eugene City Council and the Urban Renewal Agency (URA), a city committee, to give downtown Eugene a facelift in one of its more dilapidated areas. West Broadway between Willamette and Charnelton Streets has two old and run-down buildings, very limited parking and a massive hole in the ground where the old Sears building was located.
The URA issued a request for qualifications in hopes of finding a developer with a plan to revamp the downtown area, and five developers responded in Feb. 2007. Two of them were recognized by the URA as the most qualified: KWG Development Partners and Beam Development.
KWG’s proposal was a $191 million complete re-development project of the area, including a five-story cinema, a high-end boutique hotel, retail stores, rental housing and underground parking.
Beam’s plan was more conservative with an $18 million price tag that was directed at re-habilitating existing buildings and constructing a one-story building in the portion of the hole adjacent to the Centre Court building.
City councilors debated the advantages and the drawbacks of each proposal. In a public forum on April 30 their decision was made more difficult when a third idea emerged that would include a public process and a citizen advisory committee.
“One of the key elements in this discussion has been the role of the public in helping to frame and shape this project. I think whatever way in which you want to craft that public participation, the key most significant characteristic (is)… that it be done in good faith and that it be sincere,” city councilor Chris Pryor said. “I think that the public participation is important, I think the advisory committee is important and it be done in good faith and be done openly.”
The URA voted Monday night, 6-2 in favor of a plan that would merge the three proposals so the strength of each developer would be used. The movement would also establish an 11 -member West Broadway Development Advisory Committee to work with a qualified urban planner/facilitator and the developers. The committee will be formed when Mayor Kitty Piercy returns from Boston, and the three months following will be used to collect research and information on the project.
Councilors Bonny Bettman and Betty Taylor were the two dissenting votes.
“I have a lot of problems with this. I’m very disappointed that we haven’t done anything by now,” Taylor said in opposition to the proposal. The councilor stated if the construction process would have not been stopped so early, the hole where the Sears building could have been filled by now.
“When this proposal dies of its own weight… maybe we will be looking at concrete proposals like the ones we had the ability to move on instead of going through this long convoluted decision making with the developers in the front seat and the public in the back seat. We could be breaking ground on projects,” Bettman said.
“I liken (this proposal) to going out and passing up the meat and potatoes and buying champagne and caviar with food stamps, it’s just not a cost effective way to do business,” she said.
The proposal, as it stands, will create about 1,600 jobs and will consist of two-and-a-half city blocks. The URA and the West Broadway Development Advisory Committee will convene in early September to finalize a plan or walk away and begin the process again.