With a few refined conditions, the Wellington Village Council decided Tuesday, Aug. 8 that it wants to hear “best and final” offers from six developers regarding what to do with 10 acres known as Wellington Green Park.
A big question is whether to leave it as green space for families and drop-in sports activity, or perhaps sell the village-owned land near the Mall at Wellington Green — but only if council members believe recreational needs are being met at other, expanded park sites.
“I think we’ve tried to be fair in saying, ultimately, we may decide to do nothing,” Councilman Michael Drahos said.
Still, Drahos argued that it was prudent to see if the half-dozen developers, now aware of each other’s proposals in writing to the village, care to make a final pitch and see if anything breaks through for continued consideration.
The latest guidance from the village emphasizes a land purchase, as opposed to a lease, and density no greater than 220 residential units without a compelling reason, as Councilman John McGovern put it.
A proposal by a group known as Project Lighthouse, allied with developer Blue Road, has been trying to make a case for what it considers compelling reasons for many months — including a performing arts center and workforce housing, meaning it is designed to be affordable to middle-class workers.
Project Lighthouse was joined by the other five offers after the council opted to throw the process open to competing proposals in May. One other proposal mentions workforce housing, along with a 200-room hotel, but no others talk about a performing arts center. Most focus on apartments.
Blue Road’s plan would purchase the land for $20 million. It would put 480 condominiums on the property, with 30 percent designated as workforce housing, along with a 1,500-seat performing arts center, a sculpture garden, and 80,000 square feet of retail and office space.
“For nearly a year now, we’ve been working to bring our community vision for a world-class performing arts center to the Village of Wellington,” said Steven Traynor, representing Project Lighthouse.
In earlier meetings, questions from council members pressed for more details on how the project would support a performing arts center that could face financial headwinds to remain viable. The current proposal ties funding for the performing arts center to monthly payments from condominium owners.
A competing vision from Dan Enterprises Team LLC would put 180 residential units on the site, including a clubhouse with two tennis courts, swimming pools and a “horse stable,” along with 50,000 square feet of shopping areas with 25 establishments, according to a village summary of the various proposals.
Its plan refers to a “finance loan of $20 million” while pledging a share of net income and taxes over time. A representative noted it focused on low density with 180 residences while conserving 60 percent of the land as open space.
Bainbridge Companies LLC and Brefrank Enterprises LLC would offer a purchase price after site plan approval, proposing 400 apartments in six-story buildings and amenities including a fitness center and pool.
Inter Related Construction Services Corp. pitched a 99-year ground lease with an option to purchase, along with 300 apartments, 40 percent workforce housing and a hotel with 200 rooms.
RD Investment Properties LLC, affiliated with the Related Group, would offer $10 million to purchase the land and build 300 apartment units in four-story buildings, with a clubhouse and pool.
W & W VIII LLC would offer $8 million for the land and build 150 to 200 apartments and a clubhouse.
In verbal or written comments, several residents supported keeping the property at 2175 Wellington Green Drive, behind the Hampton Inn northwest of the mall, as open space.
Some acknowledged that it amounts to little more than grass next to a parking lot, without finely manicured fields or many amenities, but contended they still found it valuable for adult soccer and family outings.
Drahos asked for more information from village officials about whether existing and recently added athletic fields meet demand, not just for organized teams and leagues, but informal users.
Survey results presented at the meeting by the National Research Center and Polco found that more than 90 percent of Wellington residents rated safety, as well as parks and recreation, among their highest priorities.
Vice Mayor Michael Napoleone said that whatever happens, there should be some public benefit besides cash for the land.
“We’re not just selling it for the money,” he said. “It has got to be something that’s compelling.”
There was discussion about giving 30 days to hear final offers from developers, as staff members said they would prepare the relevant communication.
In other action, the council heard an unsolicited proposal from a company called 10by20 LLC to build padel courts and a café without displacing existing tennis courts at the Wellington Tennis Center. Council members gave a go-ahead for village staff to advertise for any competing proposals before opening negotiations into a public-private partnership with the company.
Padel is a racket sport popular in Europe and South America, which is making inroads in the United States. It takes place on a court with dimensions that vary a bit from both tennis and pickleball.