CRA wants more details from Frenchtown Partners

Keith Bowers


By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

Despite showing indications that they support an ambitious plan for building a mixed-use project at the entrance of Frenchtown, members of the Community Redevelopment Agency told developers there are still too many unanswered questions to move ahead.

“We are excited about this,” said Roxanne Manning, executive director of the Agency. “We are very glad to see this is moving forward but we are not at this point remotely ready to make a recommendation on funding.
“On a project this large, in fact with all of our projects, process is everything.”

The CRA asked the Frenchtown Redevelopment Partners to return in July with more details on financing. Specifically they wanted to hear more about the Partners’ plans for financing a garage with 700 parking spaces.
The 310,000-square-foot project is being planned for the 400 block of West Tennessee Street where The Shelter was located. The project will include 15,000-square feet of retail space in three buildings, 200 to 250 condo units, 40,000 square feet of office space and a grocery store.

However, parking and how a garage would be funded was the CRA’s main concern in their meeting last week. Project manager Keith Bowers said the Partners are hoping to negotiate a lease with the city for a five-deck garage.

Tony Brown, well-known for his consulting work with grocery stores, said they are working with local and national “players” from engineering to a parking consulting firm. The Partners brought on Brown in February.

The property is owned by the CRA, Bethel Partners and several other individuals. Each has a different level of vested interest in the project, Brown said.

“The thing that must occur is that the level of the public investment needs to be defined in a way to help each of those property owners fulfill their goals,” Brown said. “I’ve been so impressed with the property owners’ ability to come together; their commitment to putting a project together that’s not just beneficial to them but beneficial to the community.

“That’s one of the reason’s I’m here. I’m excited about turning around neighborhoods. I know one of the biggest impediments to urban redevelopment is the cost of parking.”

**Four stories of office space (25,000 square feet).
**20 units of townhouses (1,200 to 2,000 square feet).
**Four stories of apartments/condos (195,000 square feet).
**Grocery store (20,000 square feet).
**Common area/pedestrian passageway (20,000 square feet).
**Surface parking.
**Five-level garage: 700 parking spaces.