Plans for redeveloping Bergamot Station will return to Council this Tuesday but residents shouldn’t interpret the meeting as a light at the end of the tunnel for the much-debated proposal.

On June 13, Council will be asked to weigh in on the conceptual plan for the site, extend the negotiation agreement with the developer while an arts center management plan is developed and enter into an interim agreement for the master ground lease. All three decisions are part of very preliminary discussions regarding the site and no matter what happens Tuesday, it will take several years for a final plan to be approved.

Bergamot Station a city-owned, five-acre parcel of land at 2525 Michigan Ave. It’s adjacent to the 26th St. Expo line, the City Yards and near Stewart Street Park. It currently houses about 27 tenants (including galleries, designers, a nonprofit theater company and café) with above ground parking.

In addition to the public space, the complex includes about 1.3 acres of private land that also houses galleries. The master lease for the site is held by Wayne Blank who used to own the private portion of the site. Blank sold his property earlier this year and the master lease expires on Dec. 31 of this year.

City Hall began rethinking the site in 2012 and council selected the Worthe Group as their development partner in 2014. The two entered into an exclusive negotiation process to refine the concept for the site and that agreement is set to expire Aug. 30 of this year.

“Staff recommends extending the exclusive negotiating agreement with the Worthe Group for three years with two, one-year options to accommodate an entitlement process for development consistent with the preliminary plan for the site,” said the staff report. “During that time, an arts center management plan (as recommended by the Arts Commission) would be developed to ensure the area fully realizes its potential as a community cultural asset. Additionally, staff seeks authorization to enter into an interim, master ground lease with the Worthe Group for a period of three years with two, one-year options to commence on January 1, 2018, pursuant to parameters identified in the staff report, including that existing tenants would be offered leases with annual increases of no more than the increase in the consumer price index for up to three years.”

In addition, Council will be presented with a preliminary plan for the publicly owned portion of the project.

The revised plan includes preserving four of the five existing buildings and adding six new structures to create a 207,900 square foot project. Proposed uses include museum space – 21,100 square feet (9,000 above grade and 12,100 below grade), gallery, nonprofit or cultural use – 65,700 square feet, creative office space – 30,000 square feet, restaurant/café – 7,000 square feet, community space – 4,000 square feet, arts related uses – 9,000 square feet, a bike center – 600 square feet, hotel – 82,600 square feet (seven story, 120 rooms, 3,000 square feet of gallery space inside hotel and a 2,000 square foot food service).

The current on-site parking would be removed to make room for flexible open space and parking would be relocated to a new parking structure on the adjacent City Yards site.

A hotel has been part of the redevelopment discussion from the early stages as a means of generating revenue to support local transit agencies (per the City’s original reason for buying the site) and as a potential amenity for the revised arts center. However, it has always been a controversial concept.

An 11-member Advisory Committee established to review the proposal ultimately voted against the hotel request in a 6-5 vote. Existing art galleries have also been critical of the proposal at large and the hotel in specific.

Council will not be holding a final vote on any aspect of the project at their June 13 meeting. Their feedback will be incorporated into a proposal that will then begin the formal development process that will include many stops at the City’s boards/commissions, environmental review and return trips to City Council.

Council meets June 13 in City Hall, 1685 Main St. Closed session begins at 5:30 p.m., open session will begin no earlier than 6:30 p.m. Visit https://www.smgov.net/departments/clerk/agendas.aspx to view the agenda.

editor@smdp.com

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