City Hall is poised to approve a publicly subsidized plan to build 180 downtown apartments adjacent to the Advanced Learning Library in a project labeled critical to development of a new baseball stadium and revitalization of the Delano area.
The “Delano Catalyst” project also includes a 90-room hotel, a small commercial/restaurant area, a public-transit hub and a bicycle/pedestrian greenway path from McLean Boulevard to the alley that runs behind the buildings on the north side of Douglas in the Delano business district.
A yes vote by the council will set in motion about $12 million in public subsidies to facilitate what is expected to be about a $50 million project.
City Council member Janet Miller said it’s an essential part of the city’s effort to revitalize the west bank of the Arkansas River downtown.
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“That site is considered a catalyst site because it has the potential to really feed into other development in the area,” Miller said. “It is a special site because it is very close to the (Arkansas) River, very close to Exploration Place, right by the library and right by Delano.”
She said a project like the Delano Catalyst also is needed to generate more sales tax, to help fund the planned replacement of the aging Lawrence-Dumont baseball stadium and associated public improvements further south along the west bank.
“Without a project like this one, which generates the projected revenue, that whole district doesn’t work,” Miller said.
The city selected EPC Real Estate to develop the 7.2-acre Delano Catalyst site last year.
The council’s vote on Tuesday will cement the development agreement and sale of the land just south of and east of the library, which is under construction on the southwest corner of McLean and Second.
The developer has agreed to pay $750,000 for the property, according to a city staff report recommending approval.
Over time, the development is expected to get about $12 million in public assistance.
That will include up to $9 million of tax increment financing, funded from future property taxes that will be paid on the new construction. Much of that — $6 million — is slated for public and private parking for the catalyst site.
Tuesday’s vote would also pave the way for an extra 2 percent sales tax on purchases at the site, generating a maximum $3 million to go to the developer to help pay for the project.
The city plans to issue bonds exempting the developers from paying sales tax on construction materials and supplies for the new development.
The new apartment building will be just to the south of the new library. The four-story hotel will go in southeast of the library.
The catalyst site is across McLean from the River Vista apartment complex under construction on the river bank.
As River Vista has taken shape, it has spurred criticism from residents who say the apartment complex blocks the view of the river from the new $37 million public library.
Miller said that’s a matter of perspective.
“It’s going to give a whole lot more people the opportunity to actually be down on the river, on the river path, and in that open green event space and to enjoy the boats and bike rentals,” she said. “So it’s really activating the river as opposed to viewing it as you bump along at 40 mph.”