A recently-released email from the developer behind Museum Square has shed light on the project’s anticipated timeline and specific parking commitments made to local business owners.
The email from Macdonald Development Corporation President Rob Macdonald to local business owners and city staff lays out the company’s anticipated phasing for Museum Square, which still must be approved by City Council.
The two sides must also finalize the sale of city-owned land to the developer for the land that makes up the bulk of the project to the south of Museum of the West.
According to the email, the company plans to first build an apartment building on the east side of Marshall Way on land already owned by the developer. That project still requires zoning approval.
“We own this site outright and literally have the equity in the bank to build this building,” Macdonald wrote. “We plan to start in mid 2020 and finish by the end of 2021.”
According to plans submitted to the city, total Museum Square development will feature the apartment, a hotel and other residential buildings along with public open space.
Macdonald indicated the company plans to begin construction on the hotel after the apartment building.
“Our intention is to finalize the hotel plans and permits while the apartment building is under construction and then proceed with the Hotel development which includes the public parking below the Hotel,” Macdonald wrote.
The developer has gone to great lengths in recent months to address parking concerns brought up by local gallery owners concerned that the influx of residents and visitors to Museum Square would eat away at existing public parking.
The public parking below the hotel that Macdonald mentioned is part of a proposed fourth amendment to the land sale deal. It would require the city to pay for an additional level of parking.
A previous copy of the amendment – which has not been approved by City Council – included an agreement in which the city would knock $ $7,177,500 off the land purchase price. In return, the developer would add public parking underneath the hotel.
That proposal appeared to appease locals, including Bob Pejman of Pejman Gallery and French Thompson of French Designer Jeweler, who had met with the developer about parking concerns.
However, a stipulation in the deal giving the developer 10 years to build the hotel gave Pejman and Thompson pause until the two sides came up with a solution to use the hotel site as temporary parking until construction begins.
According to Macdonald’s email, the developer will create a temporary surface lot with about 149 parking spaces if hotel construction is not started within 90 days of receiving a certificate of occupancy for the apartment building.
Councilman Guy Phillips commended the developer for finding solutions to parking concerns.
“From my perspective, Mr. Macdonald is sincere in his approach to create a world-class development on this acreage,” Phillips said. “The fact that he would work personally with our local property owners and agree to provide temporary parking before the hotel is built I think shows his commitment to our community and I applaud his efforts.”
Mayor Jim Lane also commended Macdonald for “going above and beyond” by providing more parking than is required by the city throughout the entire project and said he anticipated the city and developer will continue to collaborate to address the city’s parking needs, especially during the busy tourist season during Spring Training.
Still, Lane cautioned about reading too far into MacDonald’s email.
“The only thing that I would tell you is this is a general outline,” Lane said.
Lane said that “conceptually this is where we need to be” but there are specifics of the deal that still need to be worked out between the city and developer.
Still, the ideas presented in the email gained significant support on the City Council.
“I like it a lot; it’s a very good solution that makes a lot of sense,” Vice Mayor Kathy Littlefield said of the idea.
“I definitely support it and would like to see as part of the agreement,” Littlefield said, referencing the fourth amendment to the land sale agreement between the City and developer set to go to City Council on October 15.
Councilwoman Suzanne Klapp agreed that she would like to see the interim solution put in the contract and said the city should take the developer’s offer.
“I think it’s great that the developer actually understands our parking needs and he’s offering a solution,” Klapp said, calling it a good temporary solution to the Art District’s parking needs until the public parking beneath the hotel is built.
The need for the interim parking lot could be moot if Macdonald can quickly start construction on the hotel – and associated underground parking.
“The construction of the Hotel would take a couple of years once underway so the expectation would be to open by the end of 2023,” Macdonald wrote.
He also stated that the company already has “an agreement in principle with a North American renowned partner for the Hotel on a 50/50 joint venture,” though he did not name that partner.
Not all Councilmembers are 100 percent convinced the area needs an influx of public parking, though.
Councilmember Virginia Korte said she would like to see more data to support the need for public parking in the area before committing to putting it in the contract between the city and developer.
“I’m still concerned about the need for additional public parking in the area…I understand there is an issue with parking in some districts…but I would like to see more research into the need for more public parking in that area,” Korte said.
It is unclear what commitments made in the email will make it into the fourth amendment to the land sale agreement between the city and developer that is scheduled to go before the City Council on October 15 along with Museum Square’s zoning case.
A previous copy of the fourth amendment to the land sale agreement had included commitments to build the level of public parking underneath the hotel.
Councilwoman Solange Whitehead would not comment on whether the parking should be included in the contract, but said:
“I support funding underground parking, increased street parking, and as a safeguard for the local businesses, I want a commitment for an interim parking lot if the garage is delayed.”
Klapp said she believed the proposals would attract more shoppers to the area and, in turn, result in more sales tax revenue for the city.