Palmer House redev set to go

       City Council's final approval Nov. 25 of a zone change on part of the Palmer House property allows construction plans there to begin in earnest.
       About 76,000 square feet of new commercial space, plus a hotel, are planned on the now-vacant 14-acre parcel northwest of Fillmore and Chestnut streets in what's been titled the Palmer House Redevelopment.
       With the zone change, 1.49 acres that had previously been zoned industrial becomes commercial, like the rest of the property.
       Planning Commission had approved the concept plan and zone change for the redevelopment in October, but zone changes must also be OK'd by council.
       Even though the deal gives property owner Crestone Development (doing business as Bella Fortuna, LLC) more than the usual amount of time (10 years instead of 4) to complete its plans, Crestone owner John Gatto said in an interview this week he plans to get started right away.
       “We hope to do some site grading as soon as winter breaks, possibly sooner, so we can get the site into a configuration that looks more like a developable situation,” he said.
       At the same time, “we will be actively talking to retailers,” he added.
       No tenants have been announced yet for the planned shopping/office/ hotel center, but Gatto is hopeful to “possibly have something by this summer.”
       Gatto said he had asked the city for extra time to “vest” the site, in part because Bella Fortuna had to donate land along the property's south and east boundaries for future Fillmore Street and Chestnut Street widenings, respectively. He is also contributing financially to a city traffic study of the heavily traveled Fillmore-Chestnut intersection, because his development will add vehicles to it.
       “We negotiated away significant amounts of land, and we're helping fund the study, so we wanted to be sure we had enough time to develop the site without being subjected to future off-site improvements,” Gatto said.
       The center would be built mostly on the site of the former Palmer House Hotel, which was demolished last December in preparation for the redevelopment project.

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