Changes Considered For Two Projects

Lecount Square: This significant development will bring new retail, residential, hotel, and office space to the large block bounded by Huguenot, North, Anderson, and Lecount. In my judgment, Lecount Square will have a dramatic positive impact on our local economy and will greatly advance our downtown revitalization efforts, but, like any project of such dimensions, it faces complicated challenges as it moves from planning to construction. The high cost of land acquisition – achieved without the use of eminent domain – and the simultaneous softening of the housing market and rise in construction costs have necessitated an increase in the project’s proposed size. At the same time, the developers have enhanced their proposed package of public goods, adding extensive open space, higher quality architectural design, public access to views, and use of green building standards. While this and all projects must undergo rigorous environmental review prior to final approval, I am satisfied that the value of this development to our community, coupled with specific public benefits, justifies preliminary favorable consideration of the revised program, including an increase in the project’s square footage and height. The latest rendering of Lecount Square, still a work in progress, is HERE.

Loew’s Apartments: As you may recall from previous bulletins, the M-Squared development team has proposed the construction of a twenty story apartment building on the site of the former Loew’s theater, near the western intersection of Main and Huguenot Streets. This project would stimulate economic activity and growth in a portion of our downtown that has not yet benefited from the renewal efforts unfolding elsewhere. Originally conceived as a condominium project, M-Squared indicates now that a rental development better fits the housing market, and they have, accordingly, asked the City Council to amend the relevant zoning. While I and many others prefer, as a general rule, owner-occupied housing to rental housing, a high-quality rental project is clearly preferable to the status quo. Accordingly, this week the Council acceded to the requested zoning change. M-Squared is also seeking a limited five-year reduction in its tax obligations, a matter that will be considered and acted upon by the local Industrial Development Agency. Even if this reduction is granted, the Loew’s development will still generate a net increase in property tax revenue for the City, School District, and County of $6.3 million during the next fifteen years.