Despite Concern, City Sells Centinela and Washington Property to Regency Centers LLC

Last Monday, the Culver City Council agreed to approve a commitment letter with Regency Centers Acquisition LLC / Red Barn for the sale of the city-owned property on the northeast and northwest corners of the Washington Boulevard and Centinela Avenue intersection for the development of a Market Hall.

The council was supposed to approve the commitment letter during its February 6 meeting, but during consideration of this item the council received public comment that raised concerns about Red Barn’s involvement in a project in the City of Hercules in Northern California. Since the February 6 meeting, city staff investigated the Hercules project and determined that there was nothing about Red Barn's actions that would warrant the city not entering into an agreement with the company. The staff's report noted the following: 

In 2010, the City of Hercules entered into an agreement with Red Barn to develop a Town Center project and decided to pursue a smaller, interim project due to the softening economy. The interim project involved the installation of temporary buildings and landscaping for a market hall as a place holder until the larger project could be constructed. The interim market hall was eventually built and successfully operated. At the time, the City apparently entered into poorly drafted agreements with the developer that allowed wide latitude to develop the project and did not include a Schedule of Performance in its agreement with the developer.

In addition to the seeming deficiencies in the agreement between the City and Red Barn, the City of Hercules was experiencing political and administrative instability. Since 2010, the City Council determined to release the City Manager (amidst allegations of impropriety) and three Council Members were the subject of successful recall. The interim project remained as economic conditions did not improve enough to allow the Town Center project to move forward.

Staff wants to clarify that Red Barn’s participation in this project, as reiterated by Mr. Mayhew during his public comment, is as an architectural and placemaking consultant. Such role is minor.

At Monday's meeting, the council members noted that the city was only entering into a letter of commitment and could discontinue its agreement with Regency Centers Acquisition LLC / Red Barn if the project was not proceeding as agreed.

Regency Centers agreed to construct the Market Hall that the council approved on June 27, 2011 -- a 33,250-sq.-ft. Market Hall designed to house specialty retail, artisanal food vendors selling products such as cheeses, charcuterie, baked goods, confections, wine and locally grown produce.  Regency Centers also agreed to hire JRDV Architects, the firm that prepared the original conceptual plans and preliminary design studies.

The agreement includes a land offer of $1,278,950. Regency Centers will also provide an additional $1,134,000, which will include $684,000 for offsite improvements including neighborhood traffic calming measures and $250,000 for aerial utility relocation related to the 217-space parking garage that the city will erect on the northeast corner of the intersection.

"Public markets" of the kind envisioned by the city include the Rockridge Market Hall in Oakland, CA, the Oxbow Public Market in Napa, CA, the Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco, and The Market in Santa Monica Place.

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