$78.9M Boulevard South Mixed-Use Project May Start Late 2016

Screen Shot 2016-09-19 at 10.10.30 PM

This past November, we wrote about plans to finally build the second phase of The Boulevard development in Richmond Heights. Now, new images of the proposal point to possible progress. According to KMOV and the City of Richmond Heights, Chicago-based developers Condor Properties and Edwards Realty are set to acquire the property under the name CE Boulevard I LLC next month from Pace Properties. Development could be completed in the next 2-3 years.

While nominally controversial, Tax Increment Financing (TIF) has been approved for the project twice. The original plan was to complete a second retail and residential phase soon after the first phase was completed in 2005. TIF support was passed for the area back then. Late last year, a 23-year TIF for the $78.9M project was recommended. The latest rendering is by TR,i Architects.

Subsidies, and particularly TIF, for development in St. Louis has received renewed focus. In June, TIF reform was passed with the aim to empower county-wide TIF commissions to prevent subsidies that serve one municipality at the expense of others. Previous law allowed a municipality to override a commission vote. The reform still allows an override, but only demolition and land clearance may be reimbursed to the developer, significantly limited the amount of subsidy provided.

In May, we reported on a first-of-its-kind comprehensive report on economic development incentives in the City of St. Louis. That study found that St. Louis lacks a process to effectively track incentives and evaluate their impact. It also noted that St. Louis is an outlier regarding the degree to which each of the city’s 28 aldermen “can heavily influence the process”. This is somewhat analogous to how individual municipalities, dozens of which are smaller than a city ward (~10,500 residents), can offer incentives.

Screen Shot 2016-09-19 at 10.11.34 PM{refined site plan and retail layout – September 2016}Boulevard South{draft site plan and retail allocation of Boulevard South – November 2015}

The proposed development would extend from the existing Boulevard south to Antler Drive. The parcel further south, currently the site of a Burger King, was long planned as part of the larger redevelopment, but has been excluded from the latest proposal.

The project could include up to 95,000sf of retail and dining space, 30,000sf of office, and 50 to 165 residential units. A large parking garage would be built to the east, abutting Interstate 170. The Clayton School District, in which the development is located, has opposed the TIF, expressing concern regarding possible increased school enrollment without an offsetting increase in tax revenue. The City of Richmond Heights is comprised of four different school districts, including Brentwood, Clayton, Ladue, and Maplewood/Richmond Heights.

Some recent residential projects in the Clayton school district, most recently the proposed residential component of the expansive Centene proposal, have been negotiated out of the proposed tax abatement. This means that new taxes produced by that residential development would not be captured by the developer, but instead go to the school system.

From our November reporting: According to the redevelopment plan, a TDD (Transportation Development District) is expected to be created. The TDD would levy a 1% sales tax on retail sales and the TIF would capture of portion of new taxes generated to repay development costs. Eligible costs to be reimbursed are listed as $18.7M (23.7% of development cost), and include acquisition, site prep, public parking, and more.

The existing Boulevard features 123,000sf of retail and 74 apartments, named Allegro at The Boulevard. Units feature 10ft ceilings, custom finishes, and room service from Boulevard restaurants P.F. Chang’s, Maggianos & Nadoz. The apartments have maintained a 90%+ occupancy rate according to the developer. Current leasing information shows no retail vacancies, and two office vacancies totaling less than 9,000sf.

BoulevardBoulevard 8IMG_3355{the existing Boulevard St. Louis development}

An inner ring suburb, Richmond Heights has pursued big box and major retail development for decades. At the same time, its residential population has plummeted. The 1960 Census recorded 15,622 residents, showing a population that had increased each decade of the century. By 2010 there were just 8,603 residents. The community has lost at least 8% of its population each decade since 1960.

Population decline has been a predictable outcome as residences have been bulldozed for retail development, and suburban flight has exacerbated the trend. Most recently, a neighborhood was removed to make way for a Menards big box store. New apartment projects including the Boulevard, Manhassett Village, and others may begin to reverse the trend.

Looking north at existing development from Boulevard South site:

IMG_3352IMG_3349

Looking south from existing Boulevard development:

IMG_3353

Boulevard South would replace one-story retail buildings:

IMG_3348IMG_3350Boulevard 3{aerial view of Boulevard St. Louis, Brentwood Boulevard in foreground}

Boulevard 4{streetview of Boulevard St. Louis from Brentwood Boulevard – looking southeast}

Past development plans for phase II:

The Boulevard II_3 The Boulevard II_2 The Boulevard II_1