Housing Complex

McMILLAN THEORY NO. 4: The Developers Can’t Finance This Project


The McMillan Sand Filtration Plant site is a 25-acre plot of land north of Bloomingdale. In the mid 1980s, the plant closed, leaving the city to determine how to redevelop the land. In December, Vision McMillan Partners, a group of developers, unveiled plans to transform the parcel into a mixed-use community with housing, retail, office space, and park land. Since that time, rumors, conspiracy theories, and chatter about the project have sparked huge debates about the project.

CONSPIRACY THEORY NO. 4: The developers can't finance this project.

As the crowd swelled to roughly 115 on Saturday, resident Gwen Southerland, wearing pearls, stepped up to the mic with some pointed inquiries. "I want to know, do you have the money to pay for this? EYA? Jair? Do you have the money?"

"Good question, good question," responded EYA representative Aakash Thakkar before launching into an explanation of the project's economic feasibility.

Southerland wasn't getting it and cut him off about 15 seconds in. "OK, you make a good con man. I'm not trying to be funny. Can you slow up? With the money: You said EYA had the funds?" Thakkar then interrupted her: "If you could let me finish..."

She could not. "OK, I'm an old lady. Work with me? OK? I mean go a little slow with me, son. How much is the project? Your housing? Your commercial? Your retail?"

Thakkar eventually got a word in. The project, in total, would cost between $300 million and $500 million. The infrastructure costs-demolishing the old sand filtration site, creating parks, preserving the distinctive water-silo structures, etc.-would be at least $55 million.

In an interview prior to the meeting, EYA president Bob Youngentob says his group intends to submit a plan with retail, residential, and office components to the zoning commission. That's what the city requested from developers, and it's what his team offered to do.

"We cannot come forward with a plan that's not economically viable," he says. He expects the proposal will be submitted within the year. He's aware that community opposition could influence the zoning commission to turn down his group's plan.

On Saturday, that option sounded fine to Southerland. "I just don't want us to get stuck with something that's not finished, cheap, cookie-cutter," she said.

"Are we open to making changes? Of course, we're open to making changes," says Youngentob, adding: "You can't be successful all the time in reaching that consensus. We've been successful, honestly, in the majority of the [development] communities that we've taken before public approval process."

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