City gives OK to property owner’s downtown redevelopment plan

Monday, November 19, 2007 | 9:59 p.m. CST; updated 7:52 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

A request to rezone a downtown lot was approved Monday by the City Council, allowing property owner Jon Livingston to proceed with his plans to redevelop the site. The decision to rezone the property from residential to planned commercial marks the culmination of Livingston’s rezoning quest, which has limped on for more than a year.

The lot at 1109 Locust St. lies within the area targeted in redevelopment plans drawn up by consulting firm Sasaki Associates at the request of the city. The Sasaki plan, which was presented in December 2006, calls for mixed-use development, building up instead of out, pedestrian-friendly streets and public open spaces that connect MU and Stephens College.

The plan is still a work in progress, said Tim Teddy, director of city planning and development.

Livingston first sought council approval for his plans last February, but was denied. At that time, those who vetoed the plan wanted to hold off on rezoning until the Sasaki plan could be implemented. Livingston returned in April to appeal and was shot down again.

Livingston sees his plans as the embodiment of the city’s redevelopment ideal. He says that while redevelopment is a public goal that requires City Council involvement, it’s individual owners, like himself, who will be doing the actual work — and paying for it.

“I think this is what everyone knows needs to be done,” Livingston said.

Currently, a one-story duplex with four rental units sits on the site, which is surrounded by apartment buildings and two churches. Across the street is a Greek restaurant.

Now that approval is secured, Livingston says the building on his lot will be torn down. In its place, he plans to erect a building with space for his own retail store, apartments and an office for a new small business association.

Livingston said the association would serve “anyone who wants to start a business and is having issues” and serve as a networking forum. He also plans to live on site.

“This is what the city is wanting — people who are living and working downtown,” Livingston said. “I don’t know how better to do this. I’m going to live there and work there.”

Tenant Jackie Reyes said she knew Livingston was seeking the rezoning request and that her home would eventually be demolished if the council approved Livingston’s plans. But she said she and other tenants didn’t know the public hearing on the matter was scheduled for the council’s meeting Monday night.

“I would prefer it the way it is, of course — but what can you do?” she said.

At Monday’s meeting, only Livingston spoke in favor of his request, and no one spoke against it. Discussion among the council members centered on the fact that Livingston’s request was for planned commercial zoning, which requires that specific building plans be approved by the council.

Second Ward Councilman Chris Janku said the planned commercial zoning represented a “middle ground” in redevelopment.

“It allows some development and some amount of control,” he said.

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