A redevelopment project in the heart of St. Charles got the go ahead from the St. Charles City Council Tuesday night, as six members voted to approve an application to rezone 31.5 acres of land owned by Lindenwood University.
The “Lindenwood Town Center” project is a multi-use development that would include a mix of restaurants, retail, student housing and a parking garage. The development area is bordered by First Capitol Drive in the north, Boone Avenue in the east and Wilmes Avenue in the south.
The development will include a five-story student dorm facing First Capitol Drive, a drive-through restaurant, a sit-down restaurant or hotel, a pharmacy, and a hotel or retail site, according to the development plan and development agreement approved by the city council on a 6-1 vote Tuesday with Councilman Tom Besselman Ward 2, voting no.
Council members Laurie Feldman, Ward 3, Mike Weller, Ward 5, and Bridget Ohmes, Ward 10, were absent from the meeting.
In addition, the grocery store is planning to relocate to a 140,000 square foot building on the site from its current location at 800 South Duchesne. Thecurrently located at 112 South Fifth Street would be situated on the south side of the project off of the planned Fairgrounds Road Extension.
The Post Office relocation is key to the expansion of and redevelopment of Fifth Street and First Capitol Drive.
Councilman Dave Beckering, Ward 7, reminded the council of the link.
“I want (SSM St. Joseph Health Center) to stay here, I want to see it grow,” he said. “If they’re not growing, they’re dying. I want to keep the one we’ve got. It’s very good. I don’t want to lose it.”
The rezoning request did not include three properties in the development area not owned by Lindenwood University, including 230 First Capitol Drive, 723 Spring Avenue and 1611 Wilmes Avenue. If those properties cannot be acquired, Lindenwood and the developer, the Desco Group, would have to resubmit the development plan before permits would be issued.
Council Prefers Hotel to Restaurant
In earlier meetings, the City Council voted to amend the development plan to specify that Lindenwood and the Desco Group would try for 18 months to find an occupant for a proposed hotel that would be located behind the student dorms. If unsuccessful, Desco would free develop that site as a restaurant.
Council members said Tuesday they thought this was an OK plan for the city.
Councilman Bob Kneemiller, Ward 4, said he’d like to see the developers come back with more concrete plans and good development. He said he would not support financial incentives, like tax breaks, for the project if developers are just moving businesses around town.
Besselman voted against the rezoning and the development plan and agreement. He said he had concerns about the five-story height of the proposed dorm, but his attempts to amend the plan a to limit the height to three or four stories didn’t get support from other council members at earlier council meetings.
The average height of the dorms on the Lindenwood University campus is four stories, according to Julie Mueller, vice president for operations and finance and chief operating officer for Lindenwood University. Mueller said at an earlier city council meeting, this dorm would be aimed at nontraditional students and would include both one- and two-bedroom apartments.
“The last couple of meetings I tried to get the height of the building right for the residents,” Besselman said Tuesday. “The size of it, really, the people in the neighborhood are concerned about it, so am I.”
Many city residents spoke out against the project at past city council meetings raising concerns about everything from the impact the bright lights will have on the neighborhoods that surround the project to the way in which residents were communicated with about the project.
City Council members and residents will have an opportunity to give more feedback on each individual lot in the project as it is developed going forward. The development plan and agreement just sets out what kind of land use is permitted in the project, said Bruce Evans, director of community development, at an earlier council meeting.
Each business in the development would have to gain approval for it's site plan from the Planning and Zoning Board and the City Council.
Councilman Mike Klinghammer, Ward 8, said the development is a work in progress.
“I’m going to go ahead and vote in favor of the zoning knowing full well we’re going to have future discussions on the site development itself,” he said.
Correction: An earlier version of this article mistakenly called the redevelopment project "Lindenwood University Village," which actually only refers to the student housing portion of the project, according to Scott Queen, director of public relations for Lindenwood University. The entire project is known as the Lindenwood Town Center. Patch regrets the error.