The barren space that occupies what could be Lake Highlands Town Center. The vision for the town center, which was conceived in the minds of community leaders in 2005, has been in the planning stages for the past decade. Photo by Rasy Ran

The barren space that occupies what could be Lake Highlands Town Center. The vision for the town center, which was conceived in the minds of community leaders in 2005, has been in the planning stages for the past decade: Photo by Rasy Ran

Cypress terminates TIF agreement, gives up $30 million in funding, but sets the stage for Sprouts to come in …

In The Advocate’s recent article, Lake Highlands Town Center’s tipping point, we wrote of  the “stalemate” between Cypress Real Estate Advisors and the City Design Studio/ Urban Design Peer Review Panel over Cypress’ submitted site plans for the portion of the site that would be a retail center anchored by Sprouts. Later in the piece, we noted this stalemate had put the ball squarely in Cypress’ court for the next move to get construction going at the Town Center— 1) try to find common ground with the design panel or 2) attempt to modify the Skillman Corridor TIF or 3) simply terminate their participation in the TIF. Well, Cypress answered that question today.

According to a press release issued late in the day by Councilman Adam McGough’s office, “a letter was submitted from Cypress Real Estate Advisors (PC LH Land Partners, LP) Cypress,” the owner of the Lake Highlands Town Center site indicating their decision to terminate the remainder of the TIF development agreement.”

This decision has significant financial and non-financial implications for Cypress. Financially, the completion of WaterCrest Park and the Haven, plus leasing 60 percent of the ground floor retail at The Haven, have qualified Cypress for $10 million in TIF reimbursements. Their termination of participation in the TIF means they will forego the $30 million of additional TIF reimbursements they were eligible for if they met other TIF requirements. The non-financial implication is Cypress is no longer subject to the design review from City Design Studio and its Urban Design Peer Review Panel. The “stalemate” over what is “urban” and “suburban” as it relates to Cypress’ site plan has now evaporated.

Cypress still would have to meet current zoning requirements outlined in Planned Development District (PD) 758, a special zoning district for the center, which, among other things, establishes setbacks, building heights, parking and landscape requirements. “There is nothing unworkable in the existing zoning,” Cypress representative Bill Rafkin has stated previously. While PD 758 has certain standards, it falls short of the type of scrutiny that $30 million in TIF funding gives the City, the TIF board and City Design Studio.

According to the press release, “Cypress intends to break ground on the retail center during the first quarter of 2016.”

McGough notes in the press release that he “looks forward to continuing to work with Cypress to bring this crucial development to fruition for our community.”

He adds, “Our goal remains for Lake Highlands to have a unique Town Center where the character of the community is honored and where we can come together to live, work and play.”

The press release continues:

What does this mean for the Town Center, and what’s next?

Cypress will proceed with their development of the retail center and will seek input from the community through the LHTC Task Force, which will act as an engaged sounding board and provide community input on development of the Town Center. Development must comply with the requirements of the zoning Planned Development District (PD) 758. City staff remains open to assisting and encouraging the best possible development.

Cypress re-affirmed their plans for an “extra-ordinary” retail center that conforms to the PD and features a well-regarded neighborhood grocer offering fresh, natural and organic foods; numerous restaurants offering outdoor seating and patio areas; and service and soft-good retailers. Cypress intends to break ground on the retail center during the first quarter of 2016.

Other features Cypress is working on includes town homes on the southern boundary of the Town Center and high-end apartments on the site between the future retail center and the lake. Cypress re-affirmed their plan to keep the total number of multi-family units less than 750 units including those already part of the Haven property.

Councilmember McGough will facilitate another meeting with the developer and city staff in order to expedite progress as appropriate along with next steps while he finalizes community members to serve on the LHTC Task Force. “I believe Cypress intends to honor the wants and needs of our community, and I will remain involved to see that goal achieved,” said McGough, “We are closer now than we ever have been to seeing the Lake Highlands Town Center become a reality.”