The developer of a planned 54-foot parking garage and office building near Shem Creek said Monday that he will submit building plans in the next couple of weeks, despite indications from the mayor otherwise.
Last week, Mayor Linda Page released a detailed letter to Jim Owens, a resident leading opposition to the building, stating that the developer indicated the project had become "economically unfeasible." That was due to changes including new setback requirements that Town Council approved this spring.
The letter left the building's opponents, who fear it will overpower Shem Creek, hopeful over the weekend that the battle was won.
However, developer Tex Small said Monday that he still plans to pursue construction.
"It's unfortunate things have gotten so out of kilter," Small said. "It leads to a lot of confusion."
Small said he has revised his plans to fit new requirements including setbacks despite the cost to do so. "Nevertheless, we are moving forward," Small said.
Residents have packed recent town meetings to object to the building which they contend would be too large for the quaint Shem Creek, a popular destination spot known for its water views and shrimp boats.
At the corner of Mill Street and Coleman Boulevard, the building marks a joint venture between the town and Small, developer of The Shops at Oakland.
Small is planning a four-story structure whose top two floors would include commercial office space with views overlooking Shem Creek and Coleman Boulevard. A parking garage on the lower two levels was going to include about 270 parking spaces. Small said his revised plans will include 245 parking spaces.
However, Page said due to the larger new setback requirements Small would have to reduce the office space in his building - and curb its profitability - to a point she understood it wouldn't be feasible.
"If he says he's going to make that work, I'm curious to see how," she said. "At this point, we are waiting."
In his new plan, Small said that 125 spaces will be open to the public at all times. The remaining 120 will be marked for the office building workers during daytime hours and open to the public on nights, weekends and holidays - peak restaurant and bar hours when existing parking spaces fill up quickly.
Under its agreement with the developer, the town would pay $185,000 a year in hotel taxes for 15 years, or nearly $2.8 million total for the public parking and would receive back fees paid by drivers to park there.
Town officials contend the deal keeps tax dollars from building an entire public garage that the town then must staff and maintain.
The building is among 10 properties where 55-foot buildings are allowed because they are in a flood zone. Owners couldn't reasonably put retail space on their first floors as zoning there requires, Page said.
Meanwhile, Small described considerable interest in the office space.
"We've got some wonderful prospects for that space that are going to bring some new jobs to town and some new revenue," Small said.
Reach Jennifer Hawes at 937-5563 or follow her on Twitter at @JenBerryHawes.
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