Clayton Board of Aldermen approve parking lot sale, paving way for 22-story upscale apartment

Clayton’s Board of Aldermen signed off on selling a city-owned parking lot Monday night, paving the way for a new 22-story luxury apartment at the corner of Forsyth and Brentwood Blvds in downtown Clayton.

The $1.1 million sale of the lot, which city officials said is currently underutilized, and the purchase and development agreement was approved unanimously by the board with Alderman Mark Winings absent.

Flaherty & Collins Properties, an Indianapolis-based multifamily developer, is behind the project, located on a 0.86-acre parking lot on the northeast portion of the Forsyth and Brentwood boulevards intersection.

The project, with ground-level retail stores and eight-story garage, is set to include 457,575 square feet of development across the street from the city’s Shaw Park. The area was identified as a top redevelopment priority in the city’s master plan in 2010.

The board will next vote on the rezoning and development procedure as early as Jan. 9.

As an accommodation, the developer also asked the board that they close on the property prior to Jan. 1 because of some pending law changes coming out of Congress.

“For us to do that we felt we needed to wrap this up very tightly in case, for whatever reason— and there are many reason listed — that the project does not go forward by their own choice or by our choice, that we purchase the property back and the project goes back to zero,” Clayton Mayor Harold Sanger said.

Many in attendance, including Gary Feder, lead counsel with Husch Blackwell, representing KP Developments, which owns buildings at 8025 and 8027 Forsyth Boulevard, believes the project and closing date was fast-tracked with unfounded evidence.

“We believe at this juncture that there is no reason for a Dec. 29 closing,” Feder said. “Mr. (Deron) Kintner, (lead project developer with Flaherty & CollinsKitner), when asked what was the tax reason for a 2017 closing — rather than in January or February — his comments related to the fact that he’s not a tax attorney, but that somehow the request was related to tax bills being considered in Washington, somehow related to the fact that the property is owned by the city, and somehow similar to stadium financing…My best speculation was somehow this is tied to private activity bonds, however that doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense…”

Some neighbors and others questioned whether the amount of parking  will be adequate in the project being proposed at the site of a current city surface parking lot.

The current city lot has 29 hourly, metered parking spaces and 103 monthly-leased spaces. City officials have said a minimum of 132 parking spaces in the garage must be made available for public use. Charles Hull, architect for the project, has said the spaces would be shared, with residents able to use those spaces in the evenings and shoppers and others able to use them during the day. He said the parking not available to the public may be restricted by a gate and/or permit process.

Lee Cannon, with CBB Transportation, the city’s traffic and parking consultant, has insisted the number of proposed garage parking spaces would be adequate.

During public comment, Dr. Andrew Galakatos, of the Maryland Walk high-rise condominiums building at 8025 Maryland Ave., criticized “the rush to build a 22-story high-rise building though the effects of four major apartment projects aren’t known and there will be inadequate parking.”

Feder unsuccessfully asked the board to delay its vote or cancel the closing date, citing concerns that proposed parking is insufficient and claiming shared public spaces aren’t adequate.

“We understand that for a couple of years at least that the city has been indicating publicly that the 132 spaces on the existing surface lot would be replaced with a new parking garage to serve the entire downtown block and provide the public benefit that rezoning demands and that would be on top of whatever parking is necessary to adequately serve the 228 units,” Feder said. “We heard recently that Flaherty & Collins couldn’t afford to build 132 additional spaces, yet we thought Flaherty & Collins always understood that this expense was part of this transaction… In our opinion Flaherty & Collins has been relieved of the obligation to replace 132 parking spaces.”

Kintner, at the request of Mayor Sanger, said Flaherty & Collins would be willing to work with the city to “up the number of public spaces.”

“Let me just say that our goal is to make Clayton better,” Kintner said. “We’re going to do our best to do that.”

In other action, the board approved an ordinance that would allow officials to provide tax breaks to developers that bring more retail to storefronts in some of the city’s oldest buildings.

The program is called the Clayton Vibrant Retail and Restaurant Incentive Policy, an initiative that would provide a 50 percent sales tax reimbursement for up to five years to developers who bring retail or restaurants to any of Clayton’s 122 commercial buildings that are 50 years old or older.

Only ground floor space would be eligible for the tax break.

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