Valenti gets his approvals for new Mission Gateway plan, but frustrations persist over unnamed entertainment tenant

Developer Tom Valenti made his pitch to the Mission City Council Wednesday, getting the approvals he needed to move forward with his latest Gateway project proposal.
Developer Tom Valenti made his pitch to the Mission City Council Wednesday, getting the approvals he needed to move forward with his latest Gateway project proposal.

The Mission City Council on Wednesday gave developer Tom Valenti the financial incentives he says his company needs to transform the vacant former Mission Mall lot into a bustling commercial development with apartments, hotels, retail, restaurants and entertainment.

Now, the council and Mission residents will be waiting to see if he can deliver at last.

Under the terms of the redevelopment project plan approved Wednesday, Valenti will benefit from public finance incentives through community improvement district sales tax revenues, tax increment financing revenues and industrial revenue bonds. But it was clear that significant frustrations remained among some members of the council, who were leery about approving Valenti’s project plan without him having disclosed the tenants for two large buildings that will front Roe Avenue and Johnson Drive.

Valenti said his company was working to finalize a deal with tenants for the buildings, but indicated that he was unlikely to get signatures on a contract until he started to move dirt on the first phases of the project. Valenti told the council that some of the brokers he had worked with on previous iterations were hesitant to sign clients on again until they knew it was really happening this time.

“We need to start the project in order to get tenants,” Valenti said.

Councilmembers Ron Appletoft, who is running unopposed to become the next mayor, and Nick Schlossmacher pressed Valenti for details on the tenant for the entertainment venue. The developer indicated that it would include “food concepts,” with restaurants, casual food, and vendors like a butcher or a produce provider. That portion of the project would also include entertainment features. He noted there would be an area for games like shuffleboard, ping pong or cornhole as well as a large stage for bands. An outdoor space would feature a garden area and seating.

While the council expressed optimism that the concept Valenti described would be a complement to the Johnson Drive business district that had the potential to bring more traffic — and thus more business — to downtown and its mom-and-pop retailers, the uncertainty proved too much for Appletoft to overcome. He and councilwoman Arcie Rothrock both voted against the project plan.

Appletoft said he was concerned that this was likely the last chance the city had to exercise significant control over what tenants might come in to the unannounced spaces.

“Once we make this approval, if for some reason your concept doesn’t materialize, you can bring anything in,” Appletoft said.

Now, Valenti and his Cameron Group, LLC, firm will be working to secure the financing they need to start work on the first phase of the project, which will include apartments above ground-level retail along Roeland Parkway and Johnson Drive.

The terms of the redevelopment deal approved Wednesday require that work begin on the first phase of the project by October 2018.