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Old May 15th, 2008, 10:46 AM
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Crucial decision awaits for planned Museum Market Plaza in downtown Palm Springs
The planned Museum Market Plaza still has some hurdles to clear
STEFANIE FRITH THE DESERT SUN MAY 4, 2008
Several things need to happen before John Wessman gets approval for the Museum Market Plaza in downtown Palm Springs.
And if those things don't happen, the city has a backup plan from the developers of the Hard Rock Hotel, Mayor Steve Pougnet said.
Pougnet said if Wessman can't finish the project, Santa Ana-based Nexus Development could develop the Wessman parcel if needed.
The company was chosen 18 months ago as the master developer-planner for parts of downtown. This allows the Hard Rock Hotel developers to figure out how different projects fit in with each other in that area and facilitate land transfers, or move in when property owners can't move forward with their projects, City Manager David Ready said.
Ready said Nexus has not started planning Wessman's parcel, but could do so with partners or on its own.
"We are serious about this site," Pougnet said.
Wessman has taken a major step toward redeveloping the 16-acre property in the heart of downtown into a "lifestyle center" with hotels, homes, retail and offices.
After applying last year for a planned development and being told his plan was "incomplete," Wessman submitted an application for a "specific plan" on Wednesday.
The plan is 90 pages long, significantly longer than the approximately 15 pages he submitted last year.
The application, if approved by the City Council, would create new zoning codes and rules for the Desert Fashion Plaza site, Planning Services Director Craig Ewing said.
"Once approved, that becomes the new general plan and zoning for the area," Ewing said. City staff is on a tight deadline from the City Council to review Wessman's plans by June 4. A processing schedule will be released May 21.
An environmental review will take place and be completed in nine months to a year, Ewing said.
City staff will meet with Wessman planners to go over the Environmental Impact Review process in a couple of weeks, followed by a meeting with 30 to 40 public agencies requesting their input, Ewing said.
Once that review is completed, the public will review it, and then the city will respond. It will go to the City Council after that for possible adoption, Ewing said.
"This is the most important decision (in the city) in recent history," Ewing said.
Council members are eager to move forward with the project.
Councilman Chris Mills said he is ready to "move quickly."
Mayor Pro Tem Ginny Foat stressed Wessman will be on a timeline to perform.
But that doesn't mean "giving up the farm" to get an approved project, Councilman Lee Weigel said.
"We are not going to jeopardize the city," Weigel said.
Councilman Rick Hutcheson agreed.
"The No. 1 goal is to get it right," he said. "That means it needs to be an outstanding project."
Congratulations to Stefanie Frith and The Desert Sun for an outstanding series of reports summarizing Mr. Wessman's plans for the Desert Fashion Plaza. I particularly enjoyed the "A Short History of Desert Fashion Plaza" story, for the background information it contained added perspective to the current events. The ability to read, digest and then summarize Mr. Wessman's 90 pages of development planning documents is a rare talent and one worthy of appreciation. It certainly merits my own admiration. I'm looking forward to future reports about this project as it works its way through the inevitable bureaucratic maze.


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jackscribe wrote:
I like that Mayor Steve has a backup plan to replace Wessman...if needed. This will be fabulous, despite the negative naysayers comments and gadfly efforts to derail this. One suggestion: please drop the name "plaza" from the project. It has too much negativity attached. Couldn't it just be called Museum Place...something like that?
5/4/2008 7:55:17 AM
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echidna wrote:
30 to 40 public agencies!!! My God what has become of this world? To even suggest eminant
domain is not appropriate. Wessmann does not need empty threats hanging over his head to
get this difficult project off the ground. Surely the City Attorney will advise his clients that it
would be a difficult , if not impossible task, to meet the tests required for such an action. Even if
it did qualify the City does not have the funds to purchase it. It's Mr.Wessmann's property. Has everyone lost sight of that? Stop threatning the man and help him with whatever resources the City has available for such a project. I don't see anyone making threats to Mr. Rael, who's Port Lawrence is stopped dead in it's tracks. He's done nothing but merely clear the sight after more than a year . Wessmann's project has a far better chance of being built. The Fashion Plaza, believe it or not, is only a small part of what ails downtown Palm Springs.
5/4/2008 7:54:09 AM
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