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By Phillip Pesola–
The city’s top economic development manager presented an update to the City Council last week regarding the city’s plan to guide redevelopment of the aging Sunrise Mall property and asked for approval to examine funding strategies for the next step in development.
Meghan Huber, the city’s economic development and communications manager, said staff have been continuing work on the Sunrise Tomorrow plan ever since the plan to guide redevelopment was approved by the council last year. The next step in order to move forward involves infrastructure, including roads and utilities, Huber said.
At least 25 “capable, interested” developers have expressed interest in the project, she estimated. While infrastructure is in place along major streets, the plan requires a significant overhaul of existing utilities in place across the 100-acre Sunrise Mall site.
Huber recommended that the council authorize the city manager to issue an Infrastructure Financing Strategies Request for Proposals (RFP) to allow for understanding the implications of designating some of the needed infrastructure development as public, as well as how a variety of financial tools could be used along with public funds to construct it.
The council voted unanimously in favor of the recommendation. After the RFP has been completed, any potential action items will be brought before the council for final approval.
Huber said a key step in implementing the plan will be development of a “ring road” along with needed utilities near the outer perimeter of the mall, where excess parking is currently located. In response to a question from Councilman Bret Daniels, she also confirmed the utilities would be publicly owned, but privately maintained, and said the reason for making the road and utilities publicly owned is to secure funding which would not otherwise be available.
Daniels expressed some skepticism about the public-private arrangement and asked for examples of a similar arrangement being done elsewhere. Huber called the question “fantastic” and said she would research more to find examples.
As previously reported, in a Nov. 29 video update from the city on social media, Community Development Director Casey Kempenaar said constructing residential housing on the mall’s outer parking areas is likely the first place development will start, given the current demand for housing.
“We know that retail has changed and so these giant fields of parking are no longer needed for retail and they’re ripe for development into housing and other things. So, we think the housing will come first and the other uses will follow that,” Kempenaar said.
Development proposals from private developers will still go through the city’s approval process, and residents will have a chance to voice their opinions and concerns during public meetings.
The Sentinel previously reported the 289-page draft plan for Sunrise Tomorrow was developed at a cost of over $1 million to the city. The city has also footed the bill for an extensive Environmental Impact Report in an effort to make the property “shovel ready” and as attractive as possible to developers.
The four-phase plan is projected to cost $818 million, and take 20 years to be fully completed. Up to 2,200 multi-family residential units are included in the plan, along with 480 hotel rooms, 320,000-square-feet of retail, 960,000-square-feet of office/employment use, and 450,000-square-feet of community or institutional space.
The first phase aims to develop the unused parking areas over the next five years. The second phase would incorporate office space, retail, dining, and an extended-stay hotel. The third and final phases include redeveloping the existing mall into a “21st Century Main Street.”
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