Developers Look to Get $5 Million Subsidy to Redo Vacant Building Across from City Hall

In October, Turkish developer Mike Sarimsakci unveiled his plan to transform the long-vacant Butler Brothers Building at 500 S. Ervay St., caddy-corner to the library and directly across the street from City Hall, into a large mixed-use development complete with 250 apartments, a 200-room Hilton hotel and 25,000 square feet of restaurant and retail.

The $72.6 million project is scheduled to begin construction on July 31, with an opening tentatively scheduled for the same date in 2015, but first the funding has to be in place. Sarimsakci and his investment group have already kicked in nearly $16 million, much of it for land acquisition, with a loan covering construction costs.

The final piece, developers hope, will come from the city. They've applied for $5 million in funding from the Downtown Connection TIF, which will be split more or less evenly between environmental remediation and the restoration of the original brick facade, which was covered in garish plaster at some point during the building's 102-year existence.

The city's economic development staff is on board with the proposal, arguing that a redeveloped Butler Brothers building will mean one less vacant eyesore downtown, create ground-level activity and strengthen the connection between City Hall and the Farmers Market, none of which would be feasible without a public subsidy.

And $5 million is a relative bargain compared with the $15 million the city committed to a previous effort to turn 500 S. Ervay St. into a mixed-use development, which failed in 2009.

The Downtown Connection TIF board has already approved the funding. It's slated to go before the Council's Economic Development Committee next week before being passed along to the full body for a final vote.

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