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Anxious to Develop Area 'Round Main Street Garden, Dallas Cuts Forest City a Good Deal

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We mentioned this a month ago (and well before that): Forest City's plans to redevelop the 300,000-square foot Continental Building on Commerce Street have stalled, so the city has made considerable concessions to get it back on track in order to "maintain Downtown momentum" and "strengthen redevelopment efforts surrounding Main Street Garden Park," per this afternoon's briefing presented to the city council's Economic Development Committee. The new deal substantially alters the original, which was part of the Mercantile redo for which former Mayor Laura Miller fought in '05 after it has initially tanked at City Hall.

The originally plan called for 140-160 condos, 9,000 square feet of retail, 350 parking spaces -- and capped tax increment financing, out of the Downtown Connection TIF District, at $10 million. The new deal for the project, guesstimated to cost $57.1 million, dramatically alters the plan: Forest City will have to build no fewer than 180 residential units (20 percent of which will have to provide affordable housing), but it has also reduced the retail footprint to 5,000 square feet and the number of parking spaces to 250 ("to correct a typographical error in the original agreement," hunh). And, most notably, the new agreement will "increase the aggregate limit on City funding from $10,000,000 to $22,528,288." To get the dough, Forest City, among other things, has to be moved in by December 31, 2011, and get half the retail leased.

As Karl Zavitkovsky, head of Economic Development, told Unfair Park last month, this property is prime; no way the city lets it lie fallow forever. As it he put it: "That whole area there is a top priority for us getting it redeveloped. You've got the Merc, Neimans, the [Main Street Garden] park, the UNT law school and, of course, the Grand Hotel needs to get help. ... The thought is, if you're able to impact an area significantly, it's going to have some positive effects in surrounding areas. We're doing everything we can to focus scarce resources to help that part of downtown."

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