Gardens at Market Square gets OK

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A major Downtown project got a final go-ahead Tuesday, while a proposed $900 million development at the former LTV coke works in Hazelwood appears to be poised for a strong start.

City planning commission members voted 5-0 to approve a revised project development plan for the $95 million Gardens at Market Square complex on Forbes Avenue, clearing the way for construction to begin this summer.

The development will feature 125,000 square feet of office space, a 197-room Hilton Garden Inn, a 335-space parking garage, and about 25,000 square feet of street-level retail.

Approval came after developer Millcraft Investments made changes to the project to address concerns raised by the owners and occupants of the Benedum Trees and Investment buildings on Fourth Avenue adjacent to the development.

The biggest involved eliminating a garage entrance and exit on Fourth Avenue and having all vehicles enter and exit at Forbes, which may prompt the city to make the one-way street two ways at some point in the future. With the change, Millcraft will construct a small park on Fourth where the garage entrance and exit would have been.

Even with that amenity, Millcraft still will be 3 percent short of the 10 percent open space required under city law. As a result, the developer will pay about $22,000 to the city in lieu of that additional open space.

Still, commission members were pleased with the final product.

"The devil's in the details and the details are really good here," commission member Todd Reidbord said. "[The project's] going to be a really great asset for the Market Square area."

"Everybody's happy and satisfied," added commission chairwoman Wrenna Watson. "That means that the process worked."

With planning approval out of the way, Millcraft hopes to begin construction in July once it closes on the financing, said Lucas Piatt, president and chief operating officer. "This is it. We're really excited to move forward," he said.

At the former coke works site, a preliminary request for proposals for residential housing has produced interest from 10 developers, said Don Smith, president of the Regional Industrial Development Corp., which is managing the 178-acre site for owner Almono LP.

The RIDC briefed commission members Tuesday on plans for the property, which include more than 2 million square feet of office and research and development space and as many as 1,200 units of housing in the form of townhouses, condos or apartments.

Mr. Smith said a mix of local and national developers responded to the initial request for proposals. He added he was "very encouraged" by the interest. He would not name any of the developers but said there were "some really high quality developers, sort of the best of the local developers, plus a number of really good reputation national developers responded."

RIDC officials hope to issue a final request for proposals in July and potentially award a contract in late summer.

The RIDC hopes to award up to $7 million in contracts within the next couple of weeks to begin major site work, including grading and storm water infrastructure.

breaking - businessnews

First Published May 14, 2013 5:30 PM


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