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Rezoning Extension Granted For Central At Maryland

Q2 Hotel Group, Inc. potential buyer for corner property

The FDIC, owners of the office building at Central and Maryland avenues that used to house Il Vicino restaurant (far left), requested and received a zoning extension in anticipation of a potential sale for redevelopment. photo by Diana Linsley (click for larger version)
July 01, 2011
With the recent extension of several zoning changes, a heavily debated proposed mixed use development at the corner of Central and Maryland avenues in Clayton could be on its way back in some form.

The development, initially proposed in 2008, had previously fallen apart due to economic factors. This time around, it is still the subject of debate.

At its June 14 meeting, the Clayton Board of Aldermen approved a one-year extension for a zoning change and a Planned Unit Development (PUD) for 25, 103, 111 and 119 N. Central Ave.

The addresses include three parking lots on the northwest corner of the intersection and a vacant office building at the southwest corner. The building formerly housed offices and the Il Vicino restaurant, which closed several months ago following a fire.

The request for the zoning extension came from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which now owns the building. The FDIC made the request for the extension at the request of a potential buyer, Q2 Hotel Group, Inc.

The original rezoning was from a one and two-family dwelling district to a commercial district. The PUD was granted in 2008 when it was requested by RJ York Development. At the time, RJ York owned the building as well as one of the three lots. One of the other lots is owned by the city of Clayton, while the third lot is owned by St. Joseph Catholic Church, 106 N. Meramec Ave. The lots are behind St. Joseph.

RJ York had originally planned to raze the building and replace it with a 23-story tower, which would have included a hotel, condo units, a spa and an underground garage.

The developers had also planned to consolidate the three lots and replace them with a parking garage, which would have included retail along Maryland. At that time, the city and the church had agreed to include their lots as part of the project.

RJ York asked for and was granted extensions of the rezoning and a PUD while the company looked for financing; however, the company filed for bankruptcy in February 2010, and the property was acquired by the FDIC. FDIC eventually put out requests for proposals for the property. One of those proposals was from Q2.

During several meetings in 2008, a number of residents of the Old Town Clayton area along Central to the north of the project area expressed concerns about the proposal. They feared that the garage was too close to a residential area and that shadows from the tower would limit sunlight to the area. They also expressed concern about an increase in traffic as well as parking issues.

At the time, there were also concerns from Graybar Electric. The proposed hotel tower would have backed up to Graybar's headquarters, which fronts to Meramec. Their concerns also involved traffic and potential safety issues from having two such large buildings so close to each other.

Proponents felt the additional parking and a new hotel would be good for Clayton.

At the June 14 board of aldermen meeting, some earlier concerns resurfaced. Resident Suzi Forsyth told the council that she is opposed to the development because it would be "a disaster for the area," and that she was concerned about preserving North Central.

Birch McMullin, a representative of Graybar, suggested to the council that the vote be delayed until a new owner was determined.

Also at the meeting, the board heard from Tyler Stephens of Core10 Architecture. Stephens and Core10 had worked on designs for the project when RJ York was still involved.

"One major difference between then and now is that RJ York never found the financing," said Stephens. "But now the FDIC has received calls about it, and I have received a number of calls from developers, and there is viable interest in this property."

Stephens told the board that if the rezoning was not issued allowing for a sale, he saw little future for the building other than tearing it down and possibly using the space for parking.

He said the building is currently vacant, and that even before the Il Vicino fire, the building was in need of significant work.

At least initially, there will be one difference from the project's previous incarnation. At the meeting, resident Jim Kerley read a letter from Monsignor John Shamleffer, the pastor of St. Joseph. The letter indicated that at least for the time being, the church intended to continue using its lot for church needs.

When contacted after the meeting, Shamleffer said, "What I wrote was that at the present time. St. Joseph has no plans for the parking lot, except to continue as a parking lot. I do not know what the future will bring, but if some better use of this space is presented that seems agreeable we are open to other ideas.

"We want to be considerate neighbors and would involve them in any discussions in this area. But as the letter said, the change is that, the old deal is no longer in place, since RJ York, as I understand, no longer owns the property."

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