A high-rise bordering Murray Park? Some elected officials might be gameNov 01, 2022 08:26PM ● By Shaun Delliskave
By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]
No, the city has not sold the current city hall, and no developer has yet made a serious bid for it. However, at a recent Murray City Center District (MCCD) Zone Workshop meeting, a city council member did indicate his willingness to consider a 10-story building on the site adjacent to Murray Park’s Ken Price Ball Field.
At the Aug. 10 MCCD Zone Workshop, the minutes included the following account of City Councilmember Garry Hrechkosy’s (District 5) comments: “if preserving the historic feel at Block One was truly the priority, the city would need to financially incentivize new businesses to locate there and to keep rents low to attract mom and pop restaurants. That means being less restrictive in height at the current city hall property where the highest market value could be generated.”
The minutes continue: “A discussion occurred about whether 10-story buildings were too tall in the MCCD, considering there is a 14-story hospital across the street from the current city hall (5025 South State Street) facility.”
When asked to clarify, Hrechkosy said, “I think that we need to maximize value to our citizens and follow the zoning as laid out. We would need to look at every angle.”
The city’s Future Land Use Map currently shows city hall as General Commercial.
Hrechkosy was asked what he meant by being less restrictive regarding building height at the current city hall site, he said, “I would have to reassess the plans and specific areas before proceeding with a discussion or decision.”
When questioned what the mayor’s office thought of Hrechkosy’s remarks in the minutes, Chief Communications Officer Tammy Kikuchi said, “The height restriction might be considered along State Street between Vine and 4800 South. However, keep in mind that land use is a legislative (city council) function and not an executive (mayor) function. Therefore, Mayor Hales supports the decisions of the city council on this issue.”
Murray resident and historic preservation advocate Janice Strobell said, “Murray downtown desperately needs revitalization but not at the expense of removing our unique structures, which gives our community a character that cannot be duplicated, resulting in loss of community pride/ownership for their downtown. A big issue with the downtown future is the need to have a comprehensive plan for the whole downtown and not segment each property, selling to the highest bidder. If we are worried about what is going to give the city the highest tax return and not focusing on creating gathering places downtown where commerce, entertainment, and socializing naturally occur, I think we are missing the mark.
“Sadly, with the highest revenue mindset we could find, we have lost our community, and the new developments may benefit us for the short term but become a poor revenue source far too quickly. It is important the city gets buy-in from its community prior to taking drastic steps that would alter our community. The comments received from the Edlen project open house and random survey provide some clear guidance for the changes the city can implement within the current downtown ordinance and provide a better framework for moving ahead.”
The city will transition to the new city hall building in less than a year. At the Sept. 6 RDA meeting, the city announced that Orden Yost of Colliers International will act as the city’s real estate broker to sell the city hall property and the historic Murray Chapel (4886 Poplar St.).
At the Oct. 4 city council meeting, City Attorney G.L. Christensen stated an appraisal was ordered for city hall. At the same meeting, Mayor Brett Hales said, “There is a lot of action on it.”
According to Kikuchi, “Prior to hiring a real estate broker, the city was approached by many developers interested in purchasing the current city hall property after it is vacated when the new city hall is complete. Since the hiring of Orden Yost, there continues to be a lot of interest.”
Also at the same meeting, Hrechkosy said, “My fear is that every day that passes, with the way the economy is going right now, we lose money. We want to make sure we get the maximum dollar for our citizens.”
When asked if he received any input from constituents on the sale price and the need to sell city property immediately, Hrechkosy said, “I have not spoken to anyone, but I know that the economy has challenges right now and values are coming down. I want to get the most money for the citizens.”
Rachel Morot of the Historic Murray First Foundation said, “Ultimately, Historic Murray First Foundation would love to see the old city hall/Arlington School bought by a developer committed to preserving and adaptively reusing the building to prevent multistory high-rise developments replacing it.”
When the mayor’s office was inquired if there was any rush to sell city property, Kikuchi said, “‘Rush’ is not the term I would use. We are interested and excited to see what kind of offers and possibilities come from the real estate firm’s efforts to market the property. The city will take whatever time is necessary to assure that all offers are fully vetted, legal, and represent the best interest of taxpayers. The process will not be rushed at the expense of doing it correctly and transparently.”
Not all city councilmembers feel the city hall site should allow high-rise construction. The MCCD Zone Workshop minutes record: “Ms. (Diane) Turner said 10 stories was too high. Ms. (Pam) Cotter agreed.”
“Murray City has problematic zoning, which has allowed a grossly outsized apartment building to replace the historic Murray First Ward and Carnegie Library buildings. It’s encouraging to see the city council working hard to correct the bad zoning that enabled a giant unattractive, high-rise apartment complex to overshadow our historic residential district. State Street frontage does make more sense for that kind of build than Vine Street,” Morot said.
Murray City Chapel
It was not until recently the city announced its intention to sell the historic chapel. Built in 1926, replacing a structure earlier destroyed by fire, the city purchased the building in 2017. The city also picked up the Murray Mansion, the Tea Rose Diner, and Murray Arts Center in that purchase. Currently, the city is transforming the Murray Mansion into the home of the Murray Museum.
Speaking for the mayor’s office, Kikuchi said, “Orden Yost is marketing the Murray Chapel to any and all interested buyers. The city is interested in offers that will keep the restrictions intact and preserved, but all offers will be considered.”
Vine Street property purchased
At the Oct. 4 city council meeting, Mayor Hales also revealed the purchase of the Ariana Market property behind the Murray Theater (118 E. Vine St.). The city’s intent for this purchase is to provide parking and construction staging for the renovation of the Murray Theater. The purchase price was $675,000.
Consequently, at the same meeting, Councilmember Rosalba Dominguez asked Hales about purchasing the adjacent property on 120 E. Vine St.
The mayor’s office confirmed, stating, “The city did inquire about purchasing the property located at 120 E. Vine St. for the same purpose.”
Since holding an open house and conducting an extensive survey about the Murray Block One downtown area (4800 State Street), progress on the site has been stagnant. While the city is reviewing information gathered from the survey, the development agreement with Edlen & Co. expired on Dec. 31, 2021.
“When last discussed, Edlen & Co. are still interested in developing Block One. The RDA Board (city council) and city staff are researching modifications to the MCCD ordinance and will consider approval when ready. As a result, there has been no activity to secure a developer for Block One,” Kikuchi said.
At the beginning of Hales’ term, he mentioned in an interview with the Murray Journal his desire for the Block One development to not go over three stories. Hale’s office was asked what design ideas were being pursued for that area.
“…the mayor may have talked about not going higher than three stories. However, based on RDA Board (city council) discussions about the MCCD ordinance, city planning staff are researching and drafting proposed changes to the MCCD ordinance and will discuss with the Board when ready.”