University City officials hope to citify a car-centric part of Olive Boulevard by putting a multistory building of stores, offices and residences on a vacant lot.
Such a project on a two-acre site in the 7500 block of Olive could lead to further redevelopment in the area, officials said.
The city owns the site’s five adjoining parcels through a series of acquisitions made between 2007 and 2009. The city bought the properties for about $860,000 and paid to demolish the site’s rundown buildings, including the Arcade Lanes bowling alley that burned in 2003 after 60 years in business.
After years of rejecting inquiries about the properties from resale shops, discount retailers and convenience stores, the city is ready to begin a more upscale project there.
“Through various long-range planning documents and community engagement efforts, the Olive Boulevard vision can be defined as destination corridor that reflects the unique ‘personality’ of University City — not a clone corridor found in any community,” Andrea Riganti, the city’s community development director, wrote in an email.
The development site on Olive at North and South Boulevard is among potential “nodes” of denser commercial and residential uses that would promote more walking, bicycling and bus-taking, she said.
A “request for proposals” the city issued this week seeks collaboration with a developer experienced in commercial, residential or mixed-use development. Developers’ responses are due by May 15.
Mayor Shelley Welsch said in a statement the site’s redevelopment “is a key step in the attainment of our long-term vision for the Olive Boulevard corridor.”
The city plans to sell the site to the selected developer and would consider “a variety of public-private partnership incentives,” Riganti said.
“We are most interested in delivering a good project that meets our vision and residents’ goals and are open to discussing various creative options,” she added.
The city is offering developers a few general guidelines. A mixed-use structure should be built close to the street, would be allowed to cover much of the site and ought to be designed to put parking at the rear of the site and largely out of view from Olive, the RFP said.
Already underway is a study to determine whether Olive could accommodate wider sidewalks, on-street parking and bike lanes, the city said. Information from the Missouri Department of Transportation shows that section of Olive carries about 20,000 vehicles per day.
In its RFP, the city said its goals for what gets built on the site are job production and sales tax generation.
“It should be a destination-oriented project, with an active street front that will attract people both day and night,” according to the RFP.
Bob Lewis, principal and president of Development Strategies — a consulting firm — said redoing a part of Olive in a more urban style would be “marvelous.”
“It would make some sense to be a bit more dense in that corridor,” he said.
Including residences in the project could be feasible because of bus connections along Olive to MetroLink, Lewis added.
“Setting up a node — a town center if you will — is something which would make some sense,” he said.
While the current project might require a hefty public incentive, it could show a redevelopment market exists and lead to more projects with fewer incentives, Lewis said. He praised city officials for rejecting proposals for convenience stores and similar developments.
“I’m impressed with the patience that they’re showing,” Lewis said.
The site is within a 1.5-mile section of Olive the city designated a year ago as eligible for help to businesses that want to spruce up their building fronts. The program offers a matching grant of up to $15,000 or 50 percent of the project. Eligible are property owners and business owners of buildings on Olive between Midland Boulevard and McKnight Road.
Riganti said this week that, so far, more than $200,000 has been spent on or committed to façade improvements. Property owners are painting their building and improving landscaping, signage and fences, she said.