Is there a compelling reason to support a high-profile development at a busy intersection in a successful City neighborhood?
Back in 1997, a group of investors led by Jim Smith began the rehab of a pair of City landmarks: the Chase and the Park Plaza. The results, so far, have been spectacular — with most of the money being spent on the restoration of the Chase. The $100+ million spent restoring the Chase Park Plaza complex sparked other new investment in the neighborhood, including the renovation of the Forest Park Hotel, and projects like Metro Lofts, 4545 Lindell, and the Argyle. It also seems to have jump-started the long-hoped- for rehab of shuttered Maryland Plaza.
The complex now employs nearly 500 people and it shops from more than 250 local vendors (buying everything from cheesecake to tea towels).
Now the owners of the Chase Park Plaza are proposing to invest an additional $18 million in the complex, the bulk of which would be spent on modernizing the plumbing and finishes to rooms in the Park Plaza. The owners have asked for a new tax abatement, frozen at the current level of payment.
They argue that failing to modernize rooms will result in a downgrading of the Chase Park Plaza’s highly competitive rating as a hostelry — and threaten the viability to the whole project. They argue, conversely, that improving the rooms and public spaces makes an even more competitive rating possible — and protects the viability of one of the City’s architectural gems.
I’m weighing the arguments.