URA considers proposal for former Saks department store

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Apartments, a parking garage and retail space will replace the former Saks department store Downtown under a proposal to be considered by the city Urban Redevelopment Authority board on Thursday.

Millcraft Investments, a subsidiary of Millcraft Industries, and McKnight Realty Partners are proposing to build a multi-story parking garage topped by 101 residential units at the site on Smithfield Street. They also are planning 20,000 square feet of retail space on Smithfield and Fifth Avenue, where the URA owns two properties. Also involved in the project will be the city parking authority.

The plan is being advanced in response to a request for developers issued by the URA in August seeking residential and retail uses for the property. The Millcraft-McKnight proposal was one of three received in response.

Millcraft has redeveloped the former Lazarus-Macy's and G.C. Murphy stores Downtown along with the former State Office Building. McKnight redeveloped the former Gimbels department store Downtown and recently purchased the Henry W. Oliver Building on Smithfield with plans to turn part of it into a hotel.

A principal in McKnight is URA board member William Rudolph. Yarone Zober, URA board chairman, said Mr. Rudolph has recused himself from discussions involving the project and will continue to do so.

Lucas Piatt, Millcraft's chief operating officer, said plans for the development are still very preliminary. He said the apartments would be market rate and would be built above the garage. He said Millcraft sees synergy between the project and Piatt Place, the redeveloped Lazarus-Macy's building, next door. The Oliver Building also is adjacent to the Saks site.

"We just wanted to continue to invest in the corridor. I think this is another good opportunity to take lemons and make them into lemonade," he said.

The URA has made an offer to purchase the Saks building for $4 million. The property became available after retailer Saks closed its doors March 17 after more than 30 years at the site and more than six decades Downtown.

The URA has been looking at roughly 500 parking spaces at the site, although an exact number has yet to be determined. Millcraft will pay for some of the spaces for the apartments and McKnight will pay for some for use by hotel guests at the Oliver Building. neigh_city - breaking


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