Sunset Hills moves forward on plans to redevelop Viking

City also merges with Fenton to build new Gravois bridge

By BURKE WASSON

Sunset Hills aldermen agreed last week to move forward on plans to redevelop the Holiday Inn-Viking Conference Center into a combination of a new hotel and new commercial office space.

The board voted 6-1 to approve a resolution approving a request for redevelopment proposals at the property at the northwest corner of Lindbergh Boulevard and Watson Road. Ward 1 Alderman Frank Hardy voted “no” while Ward 3 Alderman Jan Hoffmann was absent from the Sept. 11 meeting.

Additionally, aldermen voted 7-0 to hire Gilmore & Bell as bond counsel for the project and also voted 5-2 to approve a contract with consulting firm Peckham, Guyton, Albers & Viets Inc. to offer consulting services to the city on the project. Hardy and Ward 2 Alderman Tom Hrastich were opposed to entering into a contract with PGAV.

Roger Kreutz, who owns 8.18 acres on and surrounding the site of the Holiday Inn-Viking Conference Center, is attempting to sell the land and raze the four-story hotel that has been open since 1972.

To attract quality developments, the city is open to using such economic development tools as tax-increment financing, or TIF; a community-improvement district, or CID; or a transportation-development district, or TDD.

City officials sent the request for proposals out to developers last week and have set a deadline for Oct. 15 to receive any plans for the area.

In the meantime, PGAV will distribute initial drafts of the redevelopment plan and a cost-benefit analysis by Oct. 2 and finalize those drafts by Oct. 9. On Oct. 11, the city’s TIF Commission will meet to discuss the plan and set a public-hearing date.

Sunset Hills aldermen tentatively are scheduled on Dec. 11 to introduce and vote on an ordinance approving the redevelopment plan.

Mayor John Hunzeker said the request for redevelopment simply is a way for the city to enhance a highly visible commercial section of the city.

“By approving this proposal, this resolution, we will be asking developers to bring forward plans for what would be a new development at what is arguably the corner of Main and Main in the city of Sunset Hills,” Hunzeker said. “The northwest corner is already zoned commercial. It is the appropriate size for significant development. And by approving this resolution, we are merely asking developers to come forward with ideas that would improve that corner and add value to our city.

“On the flip side, if we do not pass this resolution, we will probably doom a private sale between private individuals, one being a willing seller and one being a willing buyer. And more importantly, should the sale of that property not move forward, we as a municipality will fail to add value — significant value — to our city that will affect us for at least 20 years into the future.”

While Hardy said he believes the proposal is a good plan, he voted against the request for redevelopment be-cause he is unsure whether the area fits the definition of a redevelopment area.

The request for redevelopment proposals prepared by PGAV states, “The city will consider proposals for the redevelopment of the area that consist predominantly of office uses while providing for the possibility of ancillary retail uses.”

The city will give preference to proposals that “offer a high-quality redevelopment program that complements the neighboring office and other commercial uses.”

At the time of the redevelopment agreement, developers are required to pay a deposit of $50,000 to Sunset Hills. And five days before the establishment of an ordinance approving the redevelopment plan, the city will require that the developer pay “other outstanding and estimated costs of establishing the redevelopment program.”

As for the city’s payment of any funds to the redevelopment of the Viking area, Ward 4 Alderman Frank Gregory said the request for redevelopment proposals simply is a request and not an obligation of funds.

“I’ve been involved in a couple projects that have included this request for proposal,” Gregory said. “And it would appear as was indicated, as you (City Attorney Robert C. Jones) indicated, that we are merely with this resolution asking for proposals. We’re not I believe, Mr. Jones, committing the city to anything through implied or action as to commenting about any types of funding or anything else. We’re just requesting a proposal. Is that correct?”

“That’s correct,” Jones said.

“And the city is not obligating itself to any financial obligations,” Gregory said.

Sunset Hills aldermen also made progress last week in its joint effort with the city of Fenton to reconstruct the Old Gravois Bridge that connects the two cities over the Meramec River.

Aldermen voted 7-0 to approve an intergovernmental agreement with Fenton establishing funding for the bridge replacement.

While the bridge is an estimated $5.625 million project, officials from Sunset Hills and Fenton are seeking a $4.5 million reimbursement grant from the East-West Gateway Council of Governments and $1 million from St. Louis County.

The two cities have agreed to pay up to $1 million combined for the new bridge, with Sunset Hills paying no more than $300,000 and Fenton paying no more than $700,000. As part of the ordinance approved last week, Sunset Hills officials have agreed to pay $22,500 for the grant application fee to the East-West Gateway Coordinating Council.

The cities of Sunset Hills and Fenton will share ownership of the new bridge and also split its maintenance costs.

Hunzeker said because there are other steps to take in reopening the bridge, which recently closed due to safety concerns, approving the intergovernmental agreement was mandatory.

“The bridge, as you know, is now closed,” Hunzeker said. “What we have before us tonight is an intergovernmental agreement, which merely allows the process to continue.

“There are multiple steps between now and the dedication ceremony for a new bridge. Any one of those steps could be an obstacle to the replacement of the bridge. But tonight the only thing we’re voting on is whether we believe a replacement bridge is a reasonable goal to set.”