City government

Target pad changes up for council approval sans tunnel project deal

By From page A1 | December 11, 2012

The City Council will take another shot Tuesday at ruling on a proposal to reduce the minimum square footage requirements of the vacant Second Street Crossing store sites near Target.

Buzz Oates Construction, the site’s new developer, has asked the council to alter the site plan to accommodate smaller businesses on the four pads that voters approved along with Target in 2006.

The pads have remained unbuilt since Target opened its doors in 2009.

The developer says that’s because regional retailers cannot move into the smaller-sized pads, and smaller businesses can’t move in with the higher minimum requirements.

On Nov. 27, the council postponed a decision on the changes when leaders of Davis Downtown unexpectedly revealed a tentative deal with the developer to transfer construction tax dollars generated by the Target site work to the business association, in exchange for its consent to the changes.

Davis Downtown hopes to use the money to finance the “welcoming arch” it wants to build on the south side of the Richards Boulevard tunnel in order to improve the way the city welcomes people into the city. 

Since then, however, the project plan has evolved into a more comprehensive beautification of the strip of Richards between Olive Drive and the tunnel that would include better lighting and enhanced landscaping on the edges of the road.

But as council members had no prior knowledge of the deal before the meeting began last month, and weren’t comfortable approving the changes without approval from downtown retailers, they decided to postpone their decision.

However, instead of the deal Davis Downtown had hoped to leverage, city staff members will return to the council Tuesday with a different proposal, in two parts:

* First, staff will recommend that the council approve the site changes to the Second Street Crossing as originally presented, without allocating tax dollars to Davis Downtown.

Katherine Hess, community development administrator and the city’s lead on the project proposal, has maintained that the changes to the site fall within the original intent of the development guidelines.

Hess and the city’s legal staff also don’t believe the changes need to be approved by a new public vote based on the literal translation of the original Measure K.

Several downtown business owners, however, contend that because the original vote was based on all of the site plan details — including the minimum square footage requirements — and because Measure K passed by only a slim margin, they believe the project should go to another vote.

Downtown retailers fear that allowing smaller businesses to open stores on the pad sites would transform the development into a community shopping center that would draw customers away from downtown businesses.

The city, on the other hand, wants to capture the sales tax dollars that new businesses on the sites would generate.

Complicating the matter, Buzz Oates has received a commitment from T.J. Maxx to move into the 25,000-square-foot pad, the largest of the four, and has letters of intent from Vitamin Shoppe, an undisclosed cell phone retailer and an undisclosed quick-serve restaurant that would like to fill some space on the three smaller pads.

Two of the remaining pads contain 7,500 square feet and one has 6,000.

But aside from T.J. Maxx, which the developer said last month wants to be open by the fall of 2013, the majority of those smaller businesses cannot occupy the pad sites under the current development agreement.

* Second, as for the Richards tunnel project proposal, the council will hear a recommendation to direct staff to begin collaborating with Davis Downtown and the Davis Chamber of Commerce to refine the project’s scope and cost estimation.

City staff will propose Tuesday sharing the cost of the improvement project 50-50 with Davis Downtown and the Chamber, in addition to having the city facilitate the implementation of the project through expediting city permitting processes.

The city does not have the funding it would need to finance its share of the project.

The city hopes all parties can return with a more refined project in January, including an approximate price tag, when the council could then potentially see where the project falls within its budget priorities.

— Reach Tom Sakash at [email protected] or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash

Tom Sakash

Tom Sakash covers the city beat for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at [email protected], (530) 747-8057 or @TomSakash.
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