June 28--Centene Corp. appears to be trying to make nice with downtown Clayton condo owners upset that the company's huge expansion project will block their views.
Included in an enormous document dump Tuesday on Clayton's website, Centene shows plans for landscaped green space just west of the Crescent condo building on Carondelet Plaza. Centene's plan also shows retention of some of the landscaped plaza on the west side of South Hanley Road.
The plazas are part of Centene's four-phase, approximately $771 million plan that would transform downtown Clayton with office towers, garage parking, a hotel and a corporate auditorium.
If anything, the documents made public Tuesday show Centene's project could be a bit larger than the company said early this month when it announced a 28-story office building. The latest plan shows a 30-level building 414 feet high.
The documents propose a "Centene Clayton Campus" that would greatly expand its presence near its headquarters opened in 2010 at 7700 Forsyth Boulevard. Its proposal includes street-level retail space as part of a "special development plan." Included in the plan are zoning changes that would allow greater development density.
Clayco Corp., which is overseeing the project for Centene, said when expansion plans were made public this month it hoped construction could begin this fall on an office tower at Hanley and Forsyth.
Some of Centene's plan has not gone over well with residents of the Crescent, a 70-unit condominium at 155 Carondelet Plaza. Barbara Abbett, chairwoman of the condo residential committee, told the city's Architectural Review Board on June 6 the plan poses a "virtual encapsulation of the Crescent."
By then, the city had already sold to Centene for $4 million the small city-owned parking lot just west of the Crescent. In a news release May 31, the city said that as part of the terms of the sale Centene agreed to pay for five new metered spaces in front of Crescent retail space and dedicate 20 public spaces in its future parking garage within 750 feet of the existing lot.
In addition, Centene agreed to design the new, adjacent office building to be set back from the street to allow views from Crescent condo balconies to the west.
"We understood that this was a critical piece of property for the upcoming Centene expansion plan, but wanted to respect the impact to adjacent property owners," Mayor Harold Sanger said in a statement included in the news release. "Luckily we were able to get Centene what they needed and put in place some very important protections for residents for the long term.
"Any change in this environment can be challenging, but good residential and corporate citizens working together can build something very special."
Centene is seeking $147 million in taxpayer help for its Clayton projects. In a document the compay submitted this month to the Missouri Development Finance Board, much of the taxpayer help would come from the city of Clayton, which over a period of years would provide nearly $95.6 million in property tax abatement on Centene's investment.
Centene also wants from Clayton nearly $3.2 million in personal property tax abatement and a $2.5 million commitment from a transportation development district.
The state finance board already has approved Centene's request for $10 million in Missouri BUILD bonds that provide tax credits for creating jobs.
Clayton officials said Tuesday their consideration of a public-private partnership with Centene is separate from the land use and zoning review process. Public incentives can work well, officials said. In 2008, Clayton agreed to abate $22 million in Centene's property tax to help fund its existing headquarters. Centene already has delivered $210 million in revenue and more than 1,300 jobs in less than a decade, Clayton officials said.
Tim Bryant --314-340-8206
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