City Hopes $13 Mil in HUD Block Grants Will Jumpstart Lake Highlands Town Center

For those wondering whatever become of the stagnating Lake Highlands Town Center, a ray of hope appears on the council's Economic Development Committee's agenda for Monday: "Community Development Block Grant Section 108 Guaranteed Loan Application for the Lake Highlands Town Center." I'll post the actual briefing docs when they're posted later tonight, but long story short: The Office of Economic Development wants the council to OK a public hearing for late January during which folks will be told the city's applying for $13 million in federal funds to kickstart the project -- specifically, a parking garage needed to bring in that grocery store that will anchor Prescott Realty's transit oriented development at Walnut Hill and Skillman.

"When looking at those recommendations from Street-Works, one thing they said was, 'You need to create a more urban, pedestrian-friendly environment in the retail area,' and that'll require structured parking, which is an expense that wasn't in anyone's budget," says Karl Zavitkovsky, head of the Office of Economic Development. "So we looked at the Section 108 program, which allows for this type of financing. The source of repayment of those funds are TIF reimbursements, and there's enough increment in the district -- or will be over a period of time -- to do that. That's the genesis of this."

Zavitkovsky says the city would apply to HUD for the loan and would be responsible for repaying the $13 million over 20 years, the first five of which would be interest-only; the briefing will have the precise number of the amount owed per year after that, but it's around $900,000 every years past the first five. And, again, Zavitkovsky says most of it will go toward that parking structure.

"Essential to the retail is a grocer anchor, and that needs to have parking," he says. And, no, there is no grocer in place yet: "They've had a number of serious discussions with a variety of grocers," he says, "but no final decisions have been made."

He also doesn't have a time line for construction, but the city hopes to get dirt flying some time in 2012 in the hopes of getting something built come '13. "This is one that's a long process, but we're getting there," he says. "It gets very complicated when you have to put these different capital sources together. As far as a time line, I wouldn't want to hazard a guess because the HUD guys aren't predicable."

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