Crestwood aldermen weigh final touches on approval of mixed medical/retail center

By BURKE WASSON

Crestwood aldermen were set this week to put the final touches on approval of a mixed medical/retail center at Big Bend Crossing.

A consent and estoppel agreement with Metropolitan Urological Specialists, which plans to construct the facility, was scheduled to be considered by the Board of Aldermen Tuesday night — after the Call went to press.

Because Metropolitan Urological Specialists recently acquired property on Lot 1 of Big Bend Crossing, the agreement is necessary because Metropolitan was not in the city’s original contract with the Novus Development Co. for the property. The urological group since has acquired Lot 1 from Novus.

In November, the Board of Aldermen unanimously approved an ordinance allowing for a conditional-use permit to construct a mixed medical/retail building on Lot 1 of Big Bend Crossing.

Mayor Roy Robinson said last week that he doubted the proposed agreement would generate much opposition because aldermen already have approved the project’s CUP.

“It’s been approved by the board, but they have to approve the change in the development agreement,” Robinson said. “I just call it cosmetic changes.”

The two-story building will have retail on its first floor and a Metropolitan Urological Specialists office on its second floor. Aldermen previously amended the city’s contract with Novus to ensure that Lot 1, where the medical/retail building will be constructed, is properly zoned for that use. In the city’s original contract with Novus, Lot 1 was designated for retail stores, restaurants or a hotel.

Big Bend Crossing, a $20 million project spread across 17 acres southwest of Big Bend Boulevard and Interstate 44, has been a source of controversy since Novus President Jonathan Browne sued the city in late 2002. Browne filed suit after aldermen rejected his request to approve the construction of a First Community Credit Union building on Lot 3 of Big Bend Crossing.

While that lawsuit still is pending, Robinson has said he believes it is close to being settled. The mayor also indicated last week that once the lawsuit is settled, the city would work to finally develop Lot 3.

Aldermen previously rejected the construction of a credit union on that lot at Big Bend Crossing because it was not a permitted use under the redevelopment agreement between the city and Novus.

Aldermen also noted the credit union would not generate as much sales tax as the permitted uses would. The board pointed out at that time that another sales-tax producing business would generate $390,000 during a 10-year period while the credit union would collect $9,000 during that time.

Browne’s lawsuit against the city states that Novus is asking the court “for an order declaring Section 2 of the development contract as void and unenforceable as an unlawful act of contract zoning and does not prohibit the use of property as a retail store offering financial services to the general public as set forth in the CUP (conditional-use permit) application.”

The lawsuit further contends that a CUP for a credit union would be “within the general use description of ‘retail stores’ under Section 2 of the development contract.”

Browne had asked aldermen in September 2002 to allow First Community Credit Union to construct a retail banking facility on Lot 3. The developer proposed that the credit union would have a 20-year lease with the right to exercise four five-year extensions.

But because of concerns about the drop in sales-tax revenue that the city would see at that location if a credit union were approved, aldermen denied that request and said the redevelopment agreement allowed for retail stores — not credit unions — at that location.

As for the new urology and retail center on Lot 1, city officials are projecting annual sales-tax revenues consistent with the levels estimated in 2002 for Lot 3.

In a previous memo from outgoing Economic Development Specialist Ellen Dailey to City Administrator Frank Myers, the mixed-use medical office and retail lot consists of 42,000 square feet of medical office and 14,120 square feet of ground-floor retail.

The building also will include three levels of underground parking for the urology center and retail stores.

Dailey also projected that based on the property’s expected increase in assessed value once the project is complete, the medical office/retail center on Lot 1 is estimated to generate $23,000 per year in new property-tax revenue and $40,000 per year in sales-tax revenue.

Big Bend Crossing already has seen the development of Sam’s on Lot 4 and a Hardee’s restaurant on Lot 2. Because of Novus’ lawsuit, any development on Lot 3 has been delayed.