Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The "Fleur-de-Lis" Development

UPDATED: My comments to the BPWNA
Hello Eric,

My comments are as follows:

I'm a little concerned about the removal of the five (?) large single-family houses from the project. Do we really need to increase the density of this corner so dramatically? The general idea for BPW, I thought, was to convert two-families to single-families, and four-families to two townhouses. Indeed, that's most of what Millennium's previous projects have been. However, given the quality of Millennium's work, I am sure this will be a high quality condominum development. I just am not sure all of them will sell quickly enough.

Also, I think there are two houses that would be demolished at Texas/Arsenal, as well as two vacant lots; all already owned by LRA.

I'm not entirely sure the demographics of this area will support a "lifestyle center" - but I would be glad to be proven wrong! Likewise, I have some misgivings about the underground parking thing, but I'd rather not see a large surface parking lot, so I think I'll have to support that part of the proposal.

Resale restrictions: I am opposed in general to resale restrictions on residential property, unless the buyer directly receives public financing like a first-time homebuyer grant. These units would be geared toward higher income folks, so that's not an issue. With the retail units, I'm concerned the retail-condo concept may not work well for everybody. Ownership is generally a good thing, but long-term leases are just as good for viable, stable, succesful businesses. So, I would be opposed to resale restrictions for the retail part as well.

Financing: This is exactly the kind of project TIF was intended for! I'm very happy about this aspect of the proposal.

Public improvements: bus shelters of some kind on both Jefferson and Arsenal would be excellent! Also, I would request a bump-out on Jefferson at Arsenal, to make the street a little easier to cross. Arsenal is narrow enough as it is, but Jefferson can be tricky. Plus, we need curb-cuts there too.

As for what kinds of services I would like to see:
A coffee shop or cafe would be great. Especially since TripleXpresso's closed, there's nothing like that on this section of Arsenal.
Maybe a bookstore, selling all new books or both new and used but with emphasis on new. Granted, Dunaway Books and Hammond's Books are close by, but both specialize almost entirely in used books. No religious bookstores please.
A little grocery store, a la City Grocers, would be really nice.
I wouldn't object to an insurance agency, but I would have a big problem with an H&R Block or Jackson Hewitt etc tax prep agency.

Generally, I hope whatever is developed on this location can help raise the bar for retail and general business in the Benton Park West area. While there are a number of good restaurants in Benton Park (Frazier's, Yemanja Brasil, etc.), that type of attraction hasn't spilled over across Jefferson. If this new construction development can help folks realize the potential of our historic buildings for such uses, I would be very happy indeed.

Thank you,
Joe Frank

Millennium Restoration and Development is planning a major development that will transform the southwest corner of Arsenal at Jefferson, an important entrypoint into Benton Park West. Here is a rendering of the current version.

(Note: this new artwork suggests to me the project profiles and renderings on the Millennium website for 3109 S. Jefferson and 3121 S. Jefferson are now out-of-date. That is, the project no longer includes large single-family homes, but instead a higher density retail/condo development, with parking underneath and adjacent at Texas/Arsenal.)

Among the high-quality previous projects of Millennium are 2701 Wyoming, 2201 Arsenal, 2921 Michigan, and 2648 Russell.

I would note also that Josh Restivo, et al have acquired the building kitty-corner from this location, at the NE corner of the intersection and formerly occupied by "Catch-22 Hair Salon." They plan some kind of retail, coffee shop, or gallery space there as well; probably with apartments above.

With the closure of the once great TripleXpresso's, a coffee shop/cafe on either corner would be a wonderful addition.

More details about the Fleur-de-Lis, courtesy of the Benton Park West Neighborhood Association Google Group:

"For those of you not at the last neighborhood meeting, Alderman Ken
Ortmann presented a few renderings and a little information on the
proposed development at the corner of Arsenal and Jefferson by
Millennium Restoration and Development Corporation. Attached you can
find a rendering of the proposed project, as well as some additional
information that was presented to neighborhood representatives.
Millennium and Ken have both asked for our input as neighborhood
residents into the types of services that we would like to see. Please
reply to me (winte...@mac.com) and I will compile the comments received
and present them to Millennium.

"(Preface: This project is still in the early planning stages so parts
of this info may change as the project develops.)

"The development (entitled "Fleurs de Lis") is a revision of their
previous concept, and it hopes to bridge the two neighborhoods (Benton
Park and Benton Park West) rather than the original design that
essentially just backed up to BPW. The building will be divided into
three parts connected by skybridges on the upper floors. 31 condo
units will fill the 4-story building, including one bedrooms up to
penthouse suites. Estimated prices will be between $150,000 and
$400,000. Retail will occupy the first floor, with such things as a
possible restaurant on the corner among other services like a dry
cleaner drop off and coffee shop. The retail will open to the street
as well as the plazas between buildings, allowing for outdoor seating
and public areas. Parking will be both underground (62 spaces) and at
the corner of Arsenal and Texas (the building at that corner will be
razed). The alley/Texas facing side will be more contemporary, while
the Jefferson side will be more traditional in design. Balconies will
be in most, if not all, apartments and facing both east and west.
Public artwork is expected along the walkway connecting the parking lot
and the retail areas.

"The plan has been enlarged to provide additional TIF (Tax Increment
Financing) dollars. TIF funding is a popular way of making large-scale
development financially workable while improving the surrounding area.
Essentially, a portion of the taxes collected from a development
(including property tax, sales tax, city earnings tax, etc.) are
redirected to pay off the loans on the project, as well as provide for
area street and public land improvements (think a unique bus stop,
better crosswalks, more streetside plantings, etc.). The TIF must be
approved through the Board of Aldermen. As Ken put it, right now that
land is actually costing the city in mowing and maintenance, so while a
TIF won't bring tremendous taxes to the city, the land is doing nothing
for the city now. Also, the new residents and customers will likely
spend money outside the project at surrounding businesses.

"Alderman Ortmann hopes to present the TIF to the Board of Alderman in
the fall, with anticipated groundbreaking in Spring of 2006.

"To see the project design, go to:

"While my description cannot start to do justice to all the aspects of
this project, I hope it gives you an idea of what is proposed.
Millennium would like to hear your input in order to offer a viable
urban lifestyle center that will enhance community living in the
neighborhood. I will compile the information you send me (just reply
to me at winterse@mac.com) and present it to Millennium. In addition,
the Benton Park West Neighborhood Association Board appreciates your
responses as it will give us an understanding of the association's
thoughts on the project.

"1) What kind of retail services would you like to see in this project?
2) Should their be restrictions on retail and residential condo
resales? If so, what restrictions should apply to each?
3) Do you have ideas regarding the appearance of bus stops or the
installation of bike racks, newsstands, and benches? Please offer
suggestions regarding the placement of these items or any other items
you would like to see implemented into this project.
4) Do you feel that any enhancements should be made at the other three
corners of Jefferson & Arsenal? If so, please list suggestions.
5) If you have any other comments or suggestions, feel free to provide

"Again, just reply to me at winte...@mac.com and I'll compile everyone's
suggestions. If you have any specific questions or concerns about this
project, please feel free to contact any BPWNA Board Member (though we
many not have all the answers) or Alderman Ortmann (776-0161).
Millennium can be reached at 772-9200.

The BPWNA Board is committed to keeping you informed as this project
develops. Thank you for your input!"

-Eric Winters
Secretary, BPWNA

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