DECATUR — The Decatur Park District has released details about its plans for the proposed condominium development in Chandler Park, seeking proposals from developers who could start construction in 2015.
A “request for proposal” document published today by the park district defines general guidelines for the project and seeks proposals from private developers to build “Chandler Cove.” It emphasizes that the project is not a gated community; that the development is for condominium-style housing, not apartments; and that the property would be released to the developer one parcel at a time.
“We’re going to control the whole thing. We’re going to look at everything the developer has to offer us and what they’re trying to do,” said park board President Chris Riley. “We want to do what’s best for that area of town, as well as the city of Decatur.”
Residential housing is one of the revenue-generating aspects of the park district’s long-term lakefront development project. It has also been one of the most controversial, with a group of residents circulating petitions in opposition.
The document stresses that the water’s edge must remain public. “No type of gated community will be considered, and the edges of the project will include significant buffering and landscape,” it reads, in bolded type.
Park district officials have said the development will provide a place for young professionals to live. It is also hoped that their presence near the lakefront would encourage the development of restaurants and other activities nearby.
The park district’s plan proposes the construction of 168 units in seven three-story structures in Chandler Park. A second phase of the project could include two taller structures, up to eight floors, with between 56 and 70 units per building.
Greg Weykamp and Ron Schults, principals of the park district’s consulting firm Edgewater Resources, said developers could propose different arrangements and potentially fewer units, but a larger project is not desired.
“I would be surprised if someone wants to exceed what we’re proposing. It’s the right fit,” Weykamp said.
The park district would potentially enter into a 50-year lease with the chosen developer. The consultants said a payment could be made in lieu of taxes that would correspond to the higher property value, broadening the tax base even though the park district would still own the property.
Additionally, the document suggests that the developer could pay the park district upfront for the right to lease the land and would make additional payments when condominiums are sold.
“This encourages everybody to build a better product to get a higher value so when they sell the product, everybody succeeds,” Weykamp said, though he added that the document provides flexibility for developers to suggest other financing arrangements.
Developers must submit their qualifications for the project by Sept. 20, according to a schedule in the document. The park district will choose a shortlist, and those developers will present more detailed proposals.
Construction is slated to begin in fall 2015. Property would be released to the developer one building at a time, Weykamp said, to ensure the quality of the project.
“The park district is going to retain control of everything, every step of the way,” he said. “It’s a very controlled process.”
The Commodore Decatur Yacht Club and adjacent public sailing facilities would move slightly but remain in the same general area. Plans call for them to be reconstructed following new standards that would be accessible for people with disabilities.
Two additional docks with slips for up to 50 boats are proposed, with some of those reserved for people who would live in the condominiums. The park district would build those docks.
Riley said he was excited to see what kinds of responses the park district receives. He hoped that the residents who are opposed to the project would not discourage potential developers.
“Will it dissuade someone? I hope not, but it could,” Riley said. “Will it dissuade everyone? I doubt it, because I think this is an exciting enough project. To see the whole vision for what we’d like to see down the road in Nelson Park — to me, I think a developer would want to be a part of that.”