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Trio prepares for Fort Gillem Redevelopment

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

On Thursday, the mayor of Forest Park signed an agreement among the city, the Forest Park/Fort Gillem Local Redevelopment Authority (LRA), and Forest Park Development Partners, LLC, to allow the three parties to begin assessing the fair market value of the Fort Gillem property.

Under the agreement, Forest Park Development Partners, LLC will assess the existing infrastructure, traffic systems, environmental issues, and communications systems of Fort Gillem over the next 12 to 18 months. The study will essentially decide what should stay, what should go, and what should be improved to make the property suitable for mixed-use development.

Fred Bryant, executive director of the Forest Park/Fort Gillem LRA, said the agreement marks a milestone in the project and moves the city -- rather than private developers -- closer to having control of how the property is developed, once Fort Gillem ceases to be.

"We have to demonstrate that ... by the Army selling it to us ... that we can do a better job generating jobs, than if the Army sold the property to a private developer," said Bryant. He said the study would produce an economic development conveyance application, which will be used to determine the fair market value of the property and serve as a negotiating tool for the city of Forest Park.

The study will include three parts:

· Plan refinement, consisting of environmental engineering, wetlands classification, stream buffer data, and any corrective actions necessary.

· Infrastructure assessment of existing buildings, roads, utilities, fire protection, sewers, traffic and communication systems.

· Business planing to determine what new industries would be most suitable on the property.

From the information, the Forest Park/Fort Gillem LRA will determine the worth of the property and the cost of improvements, which will be compared with an assessment of the property by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"They may come up with one number and we may come up with another, and we will negotiate until we find one that we agree with," Bryant said.

"It's in our best interest and the interest of the community for us to maintain control of the property, rather than have it be sold by some other process," Bryant continued. "Right now, 1190 acres are available. Our goal would be [to own] all of the property or a significant portion. The key is to demonstrate that our plan will maximize job creation."

While the redevelopment plan for Ft. Gillem is still in its early stages, Forest Park City Manager John Parker said the agreement is "on schedule and on target" with the BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) guidelines.

"I'm well pleased with where we are," said Parker. "Things have been progressing in a logical and reasonable manor. I'm looking forward with moving on this part of the project."

Parker said as the Ft. Gillem property is assessed, the city will conduct meetings with the public to determine what kind of things residents want built.

"There's a tremendous amount of work that has to be done," to determine what improvements are necessary, however, "this phase of the BRAC closing is the phase that will start to solidify those things," said Parker.