Fi­nal­ist cho­sen to re­de­velop va­cant lot

Austin American-Statesman - - COMMUNITY NEWS - By Mary Hu­ber mhu­ber@ac­n­news­pa­

The Bas­trop Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Corp. has cho­sen a fi­nal­ist to re­de­velop a va­cant lot on Main Street where three build­ings have burned to the ground.

The cor­po­ra­tion rec­om­mended Stone Cobalt Part­ners, a joint ven­ture out of Austin and Katy, to de­velop the trou­bled prop­erty at 921 Main Street, which closed two years ago be­cause of struc­tural prob­lems.

Stone Cobalt plans to build a 4,500-square-foot mixed-use build­ing, with restau­rant and re­tail spaces on the ground floor, of­fices on the sec­ond floor, a bal­cony over­look­ing Main Street and pos­si­bly a rooftop ter­race for spe­cial events. There are no ar­chi­tec­tural ren­der­ings of the project yet, but de­vel­op­ment cor­po­ra­tion Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Shawn Kirk­patrick said it will fit the his­toric de­sign of the area.

The project will be a pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship be­tween Stone Cobalt Part­ners and the cor­po­ra­tion, how­ever the two groups are work­ing on the terms and con­di­tions of the agree­ment, as well as fi­nan­cial fig­ures for the project.

Stone Cobalt has pro­posed leas­ing the sec­ond floor of the build­ing to the cor­po­ra­tion, which would sub­lease of­fices to the city’s Main Street Pro­gram and its new des­ti­na­tion mar­ket­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion, Visit Bas­trop. How­ever, the com­mit­tee that re­viewed pro­pos­als for the space rec­om­mended the sec­ond floor should be of­fered to a pri­vate com­pany first, with hope it could at­tract a new busi­ness to Bas­trop.

Over the next two months, the de­vel­oper will work on plans for the site, which will come back to the cor­po­ra­tion board for ap­proval likely by year’s end, Kirk­patrick said.

“This just al­lows staff to start meet­ing with them and work­ing with them on craft­ing what that project looks like,” he said.

The lot at 921 Main Street has stood va­cant for 14 years, since the build­ing there burned to the ground. In 2009, the city pur­chased the lot as part of a larger par­cel of land to ex­pand down­town park­ing. It was used by the Down­town Busi­ness Al­liance for out­door markets and events for many years, un­til struc­tural prob­lems forced the city to close the site.

Its side and rear walls are crum­bling, and when it rains, wa­ter leaks down the slab into ad­join­ing busi­nesses, forc­ing neigh­bor­ing Relics jew­elry store to spend more than $90,000 to re­pair its shared wall. En­gi­neers have es­ti­mated that to­tal re­pairs could cost as much as $250,000.

The city, un­will­ing to spend money to fix the prob­lem, sold the prop­erty to the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment cor­po­ra­tion last year for $4, though it had been ap­praised at $176,901.

Over the course of sev­eral months, the cor­po­ra­tion en­gaged the community on what it would like to see in the fu­ture for the space.

Many groups had hoped for a pocket park — a gath­er­ing space that would draw visi­tors to the down­town square and en­cour­age din­ing and shop­ping. Oth­ers pre­ferred a new com­mer­cial build­ing that would bring ad val­orem tax rev­enue to the city. The cor­po­ra­tion went with a build­ing, since it was the safest op­tion struc­turally and the most cost-ef­fec­tive. Ad­di­tion­ally, it promised the city as much as $500,000 in tax rev­enue each year, ac­cord­ing to a mar­ket anal­y­sis con­ducted by the Texas His­tor­i­cal Com­mis­sion.

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