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updated: 8/13/2013 1:56 PM

St. Charles tries to revive First Street project with smaller plan

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The crown jewel of downtown St. Charles may soon lose a few carats, but aldermen indicated a strong desire to still see it shine Monday night.

A new crop of aldermen, along with new Mayor Ray Rogina, sent up a warning flare with their election that First Street LLC had to show progress on the three incomplete phases of the downtown First Street project or make way for a group that could. On Monday, Bob Rasmussen of First Street LLC presented a new version of the next phase of First Street that aldermen embraced enough to give him three more months to work on it.

The plan shrinks Phase 3 to three buildings and a smaller parking deck. All three buildings would include first floor office/retail space. Two of the buildings would have studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments on the second, third and fourth floors.

The third building would have for-sale condominiums on the residential floors. There would be a total of 72 apartments and 34 condos between the three buildings. The building with the condos would also have 38 underground parking spaces.

The parking deck would be two stories and bring a total of 115 new parking spaces downtown.

The original First Street plans called for five-story buildings with first-floor retail and office space on the second floors. There were only 61 total residential units, all condos, in the original plan.

"We're very excited to finally put together … a project we can accomplish on what is really the most important part of the project," Rasmussen said. "It's a similar concept but a little bit smaller."

Aldermen have heard that sort of pledge before, but this time Rasmussen said he is already working on the financing for the construction with a new local bank. The bank will also work with the prospective tenants and their financing to streamline the entire process.

Rasmussen said he believes the new design will lure some key tenants to the downtown because the buildings will be just 20 to 30 feet from the river, providing unique outdoor dining options that a high-quality steak and seafood restaurant would be eager to provide.

The third phase would also complete and extend the existing outdoor plaza that already attracts some outdoor dining.

Aldermen all agreed they liked the smaller concept, especially if it means actually seeing something get built on what is now a vacant lot right in the heart of the downtown.

"I'm encouraged to hear some progress being made, finally," Alderman Jim Martin said. "I prefer the three buildings. I don't have any other problems with it. Just get some retail going into there."

The plan will also require some restructuring of the downtown tax increment finance district to assist with the funding. The details of that restructuring won't be dealt with until Rasmussen comes back to the city with the full details of the smaller plan. Despite that, aldermen gave Rasmussen 90 days to work on the plan and come back to the city with a progress report.

Revive: Scaled-down Phase 3 will include three buildings, smaller parking deck

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