June 25, 2008

Post Dispatch Article - "Aldermen delay vote on high-rise"

Aldermen delay vote on high-rise
By Margaret Gillerman
Wednesday, Jun. 25 2008

CLAYTON — For Suzi Forsyth, her neighborhood battle in Old Town Clayton is deja vu.

In 1987 and 1988, Forsyth and some of her neighbors in the Old Town Association of Clayton succeeded in keeping out a hotel and parking garage on North Central Avenue just south of their neighborhood of luxury and costly condominiums, duplexes and homes. The idea is before the city again with a different developer and different hotel interests.

The $110 million project will require a rezoning that residents like Forsyth oppose.

"It's wrong to rezone for the sole benefit of the developer," Forsyth said Tuesday night before city aldermen voted to delay a vote on the issue.

Forsyth was among a standing-room-only crowd at City Hall for a hearing on the proposal by R.J. York Development at Central and Maryland avenues. The builder's Central Maryland Hotel project would include a 23-story hotel tower, with luxury condominiums and shops.

The project, designed by Core 10 Architecture, has gotten a favorable recommendation from the city's Plan Commission. Supporters say the county seat could use a new upscale hotel with boutiques, restaurants and more parking. The developer is hoping the hotel would be a Westin.

Architect Tyler Stephens said the plans for the project have already been altered. "We've had numerous meetings with the public, heard concerns and made changes to the plan each time," he said.

But some neighbors say they fear excessive traffic and worry about pedestrian safety.

And while some say they aren't opposed to the hotel per se or the development, they're upset that the city is considering rezoning residential lots just south of Old Town to allow the parking garage.

Resident Carolyn Jenkins said that neighbors want to protect Old Town. "Rezoning is the issue," Jenkins said. "This proposal threatens the entire neighborhood."

The Art Deco-style tower would be on the southwest corner of Maryland and Central avenues, replacing a five-story building. The six-level garage, with three levels below ground, would be on the north side of Maryland, west of Central. It would replace three lots, including one used by St. Joseph's Catholic Church and another owned by the city.

James Kerley Jr.'s father opposed the similar proposal 20 years ago. Now, Kerley and his wife, Terri, are fighting this one.

"It was a bad plan then and it's a bad plan now," he said.

mgillerman@post-dispatch.com 314-725-6758

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