Mission re-development proposal hinges on CID approval

The vacant Keystone property along Johnson Drive is the site for the proposed new development.
The vacant Keystone property along Johnson Drive is the site for the proposed new development.

A Mission City Council vote next week is likely to determine the near-term prospects for a vacant car dealership property along Johnson Drive at Barkley Street. The outcome of that vote is uncertain.

Developer David Christie said his company is ready to close on the property in mid August and would “break ground the next day” to start the re-development of the three-acre project that will include a new grocery store and three restaurants. But without a Community Improvement District, the project is not feasible, he said.

Part of the proposed deal includes Christie landscaping a park area on the north end of the property along Johnson Drive and turning it over to the city as well as dedicating space for a connector street from Barkley to Broadmoor that would break up the block size and cut through the development. The two new buildings – 15,000 square feet for the grocery and more than 7,000 square feet for the restaurants – sit at the south end of the development.

Among committed tenants are a Natural Grocers store, a Pepper Jack’s restaurant, and a national sandwich shop. “We have tenants we are turning away,” Christie said. “We have 100 percent commitment.” The retail area could be open next year if it gets council approval, he said.

Whether Christie gets that approval appears to hang on a vote next week on the CID. Christie has asked for a “pay-as-you-go” CID that would collect an additional one percent sales tax at the new businesses for 22 years or until the developer is reimbursed $2.5 million. It requires no public bonding. But he is required to forfeit $500,000 of CID money if by 2018 he cannot conform to two provisions from the city’s form-based code: one requires tenants on the second story of the new buildings and a second requires construction of underground parking below the city park area. Christie said the initial structures will look like two-story buildings and can be built out for tenants in the future.

The city’s finance and administration committee agreed to send the proposal to the full council next week on a 3-1 vote with Amy Miller voting against. “I don’t know if there is enough support on council for a CID,” Miller said. She also questioned the restrictions imposed by the code, which prevent putting retail frontage on Johnson Drive in that block.

Councilor Lawrence Andre also has stated his opposition to the CID. When Miller asked Christie what he could do on the property without a CID, Christie replied, “nothing.” The cost of the land, he said made the project too expensive without public assistance. He also pointed out the costs of donating park land and meeting the two-story code requirements.

Councilor David Shepard supported the project and the CID. “Without this money none of the other public improvements happen. We are building momentum,” Shepard said.

Christie predicts the retail area will generate $200,000 in revenue to the city based on sales projections. The cost of the project is estimated at $6.8 million. It lot has been vacant for approximately a year.