Mountain View Voice

News - February 5, 2010

Lower density won't work for Minton's site, Prometheus says

by Daniel DeBolt

Citing new real estate market realities, the developer of a housing project that would replace Minton's Lumber and Supply on Evelyn Avenue says a request from neighbors to reduce the project's density "would not be economically viable."

With neighborhood traffic and parking concerns in mind, the Minton's Redevelopment Neighborhood Alliance, or MiRNA, made the case last week in a letter to Prometheus Real Estate Group for reducing the project's size by nearly a third — from 61 to 45 units per acre — citing examples of developments nearby built before the recession.

When it comes to 45 units per acre, "There are several buildings in the downtown area of similar density and a single underground podium parking garage," the MiRNA letter states. "We believe that as you are looking for a long-term investment and are currently in a cash-rich position, you will be able to recoup your investment over the long term, just as the builders of these other properties have."

The letter, sent by downtown resident and MiRNA coordinator Robert Cox and addressed to Prometheus senior development manager Nathan Tuttle, said that if the developer were to accept the proposal, those who had signed a petition opposing it would vote on whether to support the lower-density alternative. If support was found, MiRNA would begin speaking in favor of the project.

But in a response letter, Tuttle and Jon Moss, Prometheus' senior vice president of development, said it is no longer economically viable to build an apartment complex with a parking garage at 45 units per acre because of difficulties in borrowing money, a down economy and a slow real estate market.

"No company would proceed," they wrote, under the terms proposed by MiRNA.

"If we were able to develop a 45 unit/acre rental apartment community and sell it in the next year or so, the property would sell for far less than the total project costs." They went on to say that the "vast majority" of developers would not move forward with the project even as currently proposed due to the current state of the economy.

Other developers are indeed putting projects on hold. Classic Communities, which owns four acres next to Minton's, says it is not building a proposed medium-density condo development there until the market improves. That project would not have rental units or an underground garage.

Cox said his group would continue to oppose the project by speaking at City Council meetings and by circulating the petition opposing it.

A recent city-commissioned study concluded that the current proposal would not create significant impacts to neighborhood traffic and parking. But MiRNA said the way the study calculated its results — based on theoretical car trips for the site under various uses — was misleading.

The city's Environmental Planning Commission is set to discuss the project on Feb. 10 at 7 p.m. in the council chambers of City Hall. There may also be a City Council meeting on the project in March.

For more information see www.455westevelyn.com and www.mirna2030.ning.com.

E-mail Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com

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