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1988 Presidential Debates
Governor's Housing Program (Astrid Monson)
Union Street Mall (Astrid Monson)
Lights, Camera, Action! (Katherine Loew)
Super Saturday at the Capitol! (Betty Rogers)
Proposed Dues Increase
League's 40th Anniversary
Bicentennial Competition
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Annual Meeting

Union Street Mall

Planning and zoning issues are often highly controversial. In applying the basic position of League we sometimes get criticized and sometimes praised.

The Union Street Mall issue is a case in point. Essentially, it involves the redevelopment of the old Kress building site with a retail "galleria" and office building... an entirely appropriate use of the site and in accordance with its zoning. The site at the maximum floor area ratio of the permitted 7.5%, could be developed with a 350 foot high building containing about 352,000 square feet of floor space.

So why is League concerned and why have we testified repeatedly against the agreement the City is set to make with the developer?

First, because it requires the rezoning of the 16,000 square foot Union Mall from park use to highest density commercial, even though it is to remain as public open space.

Second, because it permits the developer to use this area as though it were his own property, in order to earn a floor area "bonus" for open space... increasing the permitted floor area by about one-third or to about 465,000 square feet for an effective floor area ratio of 9.9%.

Third, because it gives the developer this valuable benefit... worth many tens of million dollars in additional rental income... for a one-time premium of one million dollars plus his agreement to landscape and maintain the Mall and provide security... all of which benefits the building as much as it does the City.

In the course of various reports and testimony to the Council's Zoning Committee and in Letters to the Editor, League also pointed out that in many other cities such joint agreements involving the use of public land call for an annual sharing of profits with the public agency in addition to the usual up-front premium.

The developers claim that the project would provide for benefits to the City in the form of increased jobs and property, excise and income taxes and that without the bonus agreement the development would not take place.

To this League replied that "other downtown buildings also provide jobs and tax revenue even though their floor area ratio is limited by zoning... why shouldn't this site be developed under the same zoning rules as other downtown properties? Why should the City set a precedent permitting a particular developer to violate them by sanctioning the fiction that adjacent public property belongs to him?"

Other problems League has pointed out include the increased traffic load on Bishop Street from the bonus floor space (125 to 200 more cars) and the congestion caused by permitting additional truck loading on Bishop near Hotel Street.

As of the date of this writing, all that stood in the way of Council approval of the development agreement was the need for a quitclaim deed or similar release for the City to use the State owned Mall as provided in the agreement.

Astrid Monson
Co-Chair, Planning/Zoning

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