Despite pleas -- at times heated -- from the developer of Riverside Plaza, the Algonquin committee of the whole on Tuesday night shot down his proposal to change its plan from 54 condos to 69 rental units.
Only two trustees, Brian Dianis and Jim Steigert, were in favor of developer John Breugelmans' proposal, which he says is necessary in order to get the $8.5 million in financing he needs to finish the $12 million project. Riverside Plaza currently sits empty and half-finished at Routes 31 and 62 in the heart of downtown Algonquin.
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The housing market has been so bad that only about four units of the condo project were claimed by prospective buyers, Breugelmans told the board. Breugelmans bought the building in spring 2011.
A rental building is now his only option, and consultants' studies show that anything less than 69 units is not financially viable, he said.
With 69 rental units, the building would be fully rented within eight months of its completion, with the long-term goal to turn the project back into condos in three to seven years, Breugelmans said. "The rental situation we're talking about here would be a temporary measure," he said.
But a majority of board members wouldn't have it.
For some, the sticking point was the higher number of rental units versus the number of condos in the original plan.
"I don't want to see this end, I want to see this moving forward, but somewhere along the line there has to be a compromise," trustee Robert Smith said.
Village staff had previously proposed a compromise of 60 units.
Last week during a meeting with staff, Breugelmans mentioned the idea of 64 rental units, with the top floor leased to corporate clients, Village President John Schmitt said.
"The whole intent of bringing a luxury condo was to bring people with disposable income to downtown. By converting condos to apartments, it does not change that," Schmitt said.
But others, like trustees John Spella and Debby Sosine, just don't want Riverside Plaza to be turned into rentals.
"My job is to look at 15, 20, 30 years down the line," Sosine said.
"We bought a product that was 54 condo units," Spella said, referring to the agreement with the original developer who defaulted on his loans a few years ago. "We do what we feel is right for the entire community."
Last month, the village's planning and zoning commission approved Breugelmans' request for 69 rental units, along with several conditions including luxury amenities and an adequate number of parking spaces.
Port Edward restaurant owner Edward Wolowiec was among a few residents who on Tuesday spoke in favor of allowing 69 rental units. "Please let's move with this thing," he said, later adding, "We elected you. Keep that in mind."
After the meeting, Breugelmans said that he is open to meeting with village staff and officials again, but reiterated that nothing less than 69 rental units will work. If need be, he'll lock up the building and wait until the condo market is more favorable in a few years, he said.