David Dale, president, Spring Bank Community Association, announced a new element Monday night to the ongoing Kings Crossing negotiations. Costco, the discount retail chain, is now exploring a store on the north side of Shields Avenue, between the present Penn Daw Mobile Home Park and Route 1.
"I just wanted to let you know that we have been looking at properties up and down the corridor and this seems to be a very good opportunity," said Larry Demaree, in real estate development with Costco.
"We are looking to join this development project to enhance the retail element. This would not be a big ugly box type store. But, it would be a Costco," Demaree told the dozen association members gathered at Groveton Baptist Church for their regular monthly meeting.
"We are open to the idea. But, there are many things to be worked out. We view this as an interesting opportunity," said Aaron C. Liebert, vice president and area managing partner, JPI Development Partners, Inc., the designated developer for the 11-plus acre Kings Crossing-Route 1 site owned by Dallas based Archon and presently home to Chuck E. Cheese and National Wholesale Liquidators.
"We want to fit in and be accepted by the surrounding community. We are a membership-based company and we have no interest in being where we are not wanted. We also develop our properties to compliment the area and new development," Demaree said.
Prior to Dale's introduction of Demaree, discussion centered on the results of a meeting held Nov. 10 in the office of Lee District Supervisor Dana Kauffman attended by Dale, Martin Tillet, an association member; Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerald Hyland; representatives of JPI; County Planning staff; and Kauffman.
The object of the gathering was an attempt to reach a consensus on the prime stumbling block to the Kings Crossing development — the percentage of the developable portion of the site to be devoted to retail/commercial and residential. The recent formal filing of the plan by JPI calls for 25 percent for residential, according to Dale.
"My sense of the meeting was that this was make or break time. I'm not saying this plan (as submitted by JPI) is perfect. But, if we go back to square one we might end up with a big box development which can be done by-right," Dale told the membership.
"The plan calls for 872 residential units because to make this plan work, JPI has said they need that number of residential units. This is about as low as they are going to go and stay with the property," he said.
Originally both the association and Hyland were pushing for a 50/50 split between retail/commercial and residential uses. JPI had increased to nearly 85 percent residential at one point which both the association and Hyland termed "unacceptable."
Under the present compromise, residential units will be a mix of 112 stacked townhouse units, 67 townhouses, 181 multi-family units, and 512 residences. It also projects office and or hotel elements, ground level retail, and varying configurations of open space within the build area.
To the rear of the property, encompassing the Resource Protection Area, will be a large natural open space park between the Kings Crossing site and the Fairchild Property. This will be accessible by both the residents and visitors to the Kings Crossing development as well as Spring Bank Community residents.
Several members questioned settling for 800-plus residential units when the association originally wanted no more than 600. As one member stated, "I'm really disappointed that we got to this point and we are still over 800 residential units. We have worked too hard and too long for this."
Martin Tillet, an association member who has been particularly active on this project working with Dale, pointed out, "Originally this was to be a gateway type development and JPI got the 50/50 message clear and loud from us. But, I'm afraid they got a different message from the two Supervisors. Hyland and Kauffman seemed to say they had to have at least 25 percent retail/commercial."
"To his credit Hyland is still waiting to hear from us," Dale said. He still won't approve JPI's proposal unless we are in agreement. He's sticking by his word. He won't vote until we vote for the plan."
This was buttressed by Tillet. "Hyland has backed us all the way and continues to do so," he said.
That was also evident to both Dale and Tillet when it came to the issue of on-site parking during the recent meeting in Kauffman's office. "There was a representative there from the County Economic Advisory Board and Hyland pressed them about underground parking. He asked them why they weren't dealing with the parking question and told them to make it happen," Tillet said.
"Above-ground parking is a lot cheaper to build than underground. The difference is that above-ground costs about $10,000 per space while underground is approximately $30,000 per space," Liebert explained.
As for the ratio of residential to retail/commercial, Liebert said, "The site area kept growing, that's why the number of residential units kept growing. We are looking at making larger units. We are also looking at a mix of unit sizes."
According to Liebert there still has been no final agreement pertaining to JPI's purchase of the Penn Daw Mobile Home park on Shields Avenue, immediately adjacent to the Kings Crossing site. But, there is a memorandum of agreement for the County Department of Housing and Community Development to commit personnel to aid mobile home residents with their relocation, which will be financed by JPI, according to officials.
Dale noted that originally the association wanted three basic things to support the development proposal — a park area open and accessible to all local residents, a town center concept, and mixed-use with an even split between residential and retail/commercial.
"Does this plan qualify as a town center and will it survive?" Dale asked rhetorically. "County planning staff said yes. They said the site, as planned, has enough retail to make it viable," he told those present.
"But, before we vote we'll have a fully detailed plan to study and comment on. I don't think the present plan is a particularly good plan. But, I think it is an acceptable plan. With some modifications, I will be comfortable in trying to sell it to the community," Dale said.