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Bohemian Hill: Slash and burn development?

*NOTE – This article was originally written in March of 2007 for the newsletter.

Residents of the small South City community of Bohemian Hill, nestled between the Lafayette Square and Soulard neighborhoods across from City Hospital, might soon be counting down the days to their neighborhood’s destruction. The open nature and prime location of the neighborhood have made it a tempting target for development for years.

Finally, it seems like the tiny neighborhood’s time has come. Developer, Gilded Age and Koman Properties have begun plans to develop 10 acres in the area. The project is set to bring a full-service grocer and Walgreens to the neighborhood, as well as other retail space. The only trouble is, when it’s completed, most of the current residents won’t be around to see it.

Conceptual plans, as well as a subsidy request are expected to be unveiled later this month. Initial information suggests that the development will be constructed in two phases. The first phase, dubbed Georgian Square, will total $30 million on 6 acres. The phase will feature the grocer and Walgreens stores, 12 and 15 retail stores and a large parking lot. Completion is set for mid-2008.. The site, currently vacant, is under contract from the city. Opponents of the project cite the suburban-styling of this phase should be retooled to better reflect the urban landscape (You can judge for yourself in the picture upper right).

The 4 acre second phase calls for additional retail and office space, as well as condos at a total price of $50 million. The city is negotiating with property owners to purchase this property, which includes nearly two dozen buildings. This is the main source of contention in the project.

Allegations have been made that property owners were threatened with eminent domain, that no public input has been sought in the site design, and some of the properties in jeopardy are new rehabs. These issues have lead to picketing by citizen groups supporting property rights and public input. The city claims no eminent domain has been used, though it hasn’t been ruled out.

The new retail and grocer will be targeted to residents of The Georgian and will draw customers from the ever increasing residential population downtown and from neighboring Soulard, Benton Park and Lafayette Square. “It’s kind of a no-man’s-land between these historic neighborhoods,” said Gilded Age principal Trace Shaughnessy. “As people are moving in and we’re selling to a more discerning buyer, they’re looking for things like a grocery store.” Chris Goodson of Gilded age agrees that the project is a positive for the area. “Momentum is building in pockets in the city. That’s how you build a great City — you take the momentum and build on it.”

*UPDATE – This battle over eminent domain has since been settled. No land will be forcibly take for phase II. Additionally, more detailed plans have also been revealed for the site. The images above are from those plans. If you want to see more about Koman’s development, you can view their official PDF breakdown: http://komanproperties.com/05162007/Georgian%20Square.pdf

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