Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Takoma Junction Update: Co-op Expansion Plans and Progress on Other Fronts

The TPSS Co-op would like to expand into the city-owned lot at Takoma Junction and last year chartered an expansion task force to explore possibilities. Board president David Walker provided background, and presented options under consideration, at the July 30 city-council meeting. His presentation slides are online, and presentation video can also be viewed online. The first half of the deck is background, which provides context and communicates the co-op's role in the community and financial status. About 3/4 of the way in, there are basic drawings that illustrate several candidate designs.

The co-op asked the council for "site control," essentially a year's exclusive development rights, both as a sign that the council sees the co-op's initiative in a favorable light and to ensure that time and funds the co-op would spend creating detailed designs and development plans, and on fund, are well justified. The co-op seeks a January 1, 2013, site-control start date.

Personally, I welcome the co-op's initiative, but I think the city should have an open process that invites alternative proposals and also explores other non-development options, namely status quo (leaving the parking lot as-is) and upgrading the lot to also serve as a community space. I'd see the city's issuing a Request for Interest (RFI) that anyone could respond to. Responses could/should be evaluated in comparison to a) enhancement of the lot for community use and b) status quo.

Just for illustration, here's an example of an RFI that I found online, for development of a church-owned parcel in Minneapolis.

I'm very much interested in reactions to all this, to the co-op proposal, to the RFI idea, other, including further thoughts on lot improvement as a community space.

The co-op presentation did garner questions and comments from Takoma Junction Task Force members. Dan Seligman asked for additional information on co-op financials, and Billy Coulter wanted to know "why the Coop did not include the option of building out the Turner structure toward Sycamore since that lot has 8688 sq. ft. available." Billy commented, that "building a new structure on the environmentally challenged City Lot would result in no virtually no public space and very little parking unless the Turner building and the Auto Clinic buildings are razed."

Co-op board president David Walker responded, regarding finances, "Our budget is not unlimited and he is correct in pointing out that the revenues of the new store must pay for the financing of the new store. As documented in our Council presentation, we commissioned a market feasibility study which provided estimates of the revenue potential of a 12,500 square-foot store during its first four years, from 2015 to 2018. With these and other proprietary data, I have created an interactive financial model of the project, permitting what-if and break-even analyses. This model includes a sources-and-uses-of-funds statement, as well as seven years of pro forma balance sheets, income statements, cash-flow statements and financing amortizations.

"It must be understood that these projections are based on the preferred embodiment of the project: A new store built on the City-lot...

"The pro-forma statements are still proprietary and confidential at this point. However, the Sources and Uses of Funds statement, which is integral to the financial model, may be appropriate to share, in answer to questions from both Mr. Seligman and councilmembers. It is attached."

I have taken the liberty of posting that document and also slides of a three-level project that David provided. I excerpted above from a much longer message. He did not address Billy Coulter's question about building out the Turner structure toward Sycamore, except indirectly, as quoted. Please send me a note if you'd like to see David's full message.

Also at the July 30 council meeting --
  • The council and co-op representatives discussed the need for adequate Takoma Junction parking.
  • The council recognized that Historic Takoma recently received an occupancy permit for its Carroll Avenue space.
  • The council passed a resolution to extend the co-op's lease of lot space for parking and access, and we directed the city manager to approach other businesses are using the lot for commercial purposes to negotiate similar lease arrangement.
City Manager Barb Matthews reported to me, after the meeting, that the city expects to issue a request for proposals (RFP) for environmental assessment and testing of the city lot by the end of the current week, by August 17.

Regarding the Takoma Junction streetscape --
  • The city made a request to the State Highway Administration for a new crosswalk, across Carroll Avenue at Grant Avenue. This was directed by a June 4 council resolution, which also covered signal optimization, power-supply upgrades by Pepco, and other points.
  • Public Works Director Daryl Braithwaite reported last month that she plans to have city contractors close the second driveway entrance to the City lot at the time they do ADA sidewalk work on Carroll Avenue in the junction, which she guesses will be this month, in August. That's the temporary entrance, closer to the TPSS Co-op, that was created when the temporary fire station was located on the lot during rebuilding on a new Takoma Park fire station. Daryl said it would be better to remove the driveway apron than to use temporary planters or some other barricade.
And in case you haven't heard, the food truck trial is going great. Trucks will be out again this Friday, from 5 pm to 8 pm. Check out the schedule through September 21. Enjoy!

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