Image courtesy of Open Realty and GFF

Update: The city council voted to keep the public hearing open until April 11, when the development will be discussed further. They did not vote on the issue on March 28.

A planned 165,000-square-foot development on Henderson near the intersections with McMillan and Glencoe has caused some neighbors to go so far as to create a website expressing their dismay, while others support the plan. Both sides will join property owner and developer Mark Masinter, CEO of Open Realty Advisors, to voice their opinions at today’s City Council meeting at 1 p.m. Masinter believes the website contains misinformation.

Concerned neighbors say that the Henderson development will force traffic into their neighborhood. Misinter says he has the approval of the plan’s immediate neighbors and has reduced the size of the project to reach a compromise.

A giant “FICTION” greets visitors to, where the site warns neighbors, “Don’t believe the hype & pretty pictures.” The site says the development will cause a 57 percent increase in traffic, warns of extra cars cutting through the neighborhood and says that Open Realty Advisors already owns other areas on Henderson Avenue where the development could be built. The location of the proposed development has been an empty lot for years.

The website lists what it calls fictional statements by the developer, including the ability to build a six-level parking garage — something the developer says is not included in the current plan. The site also questions whether the developer has neighborhood support, claiming that some of the support comes from companies that don’t include neighborhood residents. It encourages visitors to email City Council members with their opinion.

Henderson Avenue looking north toward Belmont (Photo courtesy of Bruce Richardson)

A contentious December City Council meeting led to a postponement of a vote while council members and city staff tried to work toward a compromise between the developer and the opposition. But the group that created the website doesn’t believe there has been any progress.

Masinter says the website is misinformation. In meetings with City Council, Open Realty altered its plans to reduce the development’s square footage and the total parking to respond to concerns about increased traffic.

The City Plan Commission approved a plan that originally included 190,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and office space. The latest compromise includes a 165,000-square-foot plan, about a 13 percent reduction in size. The parking originally included 822 spaces with 754 in an underground garage; the latest plan features 46 surface spaces and 588 in the underground garage. This is a 28 percent reduction in parking. The “Henderson Fiction” website still lists a 750-space parking garage as well as traffic numbers from the original plan instead of the newest version.

“I am all for civil discourse and to be able to disagree respectively,” Masinter says. “But do it based on facts. Don’t do it on things that aren’t true.”

Opponents say the reduction of square-footage and parking will not make much of a dent in the increased traffic. They say the area cannot handle a multi-level underground parking garage. Some neighbors say the size reductions will not significantly reduce traffic, while others look forward to having new business in a vacant lot.

Paseo apartments at Belmont and Henderson (photo courtesy of Bruce Richardson).

Masinter says that multi-family residential buildings in the area decrease walkability and may chase off other businesses that want to congregate together. Opponents say the zoning purposefully breaks up the commercial areas of Henderson in order to reduce traffic in an already congested area. The area is currently zoned for multi-family residential such as the Paseo across the street from Jake’s on Henderson. Open Realty’s opponents say this is the ideal use of the space.

The development earned the support of 83 percent of nearby residents, but opponents say that many of the supporters of the development are LLCs and corporations. Even if the companies are removed as respondents, Masinter says they still have two-to-one support of those in the 500-foot radius. “The city has determined from their own wisdom that that is who matters,” Masinter says. “The neighbors have spoken.”

Neighbors can make their public comments about the development during the City Council meeting Wednesday.

Image courtesy of Open Realty and GFF

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