Why Are There So Few Details about the Bakery Square Expansion?

The mammoth project by Walnut Capital must have the land rezoned before it decides what will be part of the new development.
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It will be quite a while before the public learns any details about what Walnut Capital plans to include in its redevelopment of The Village of Eastside shopping plaza and surrounding land in mostly East Liberty.

The 25-year-old real estate development company has been working for 15 months on plans to expand Bakery Square into the adjacent 14-acre shopping center area to provide a higher density mixed-use development. It owns all the property.

Its first priority is to have the area rezoned as a Specially Planned District that would allow the mixed-use development, Todd Reidbord, founding partner and president of Walnut Capital, told a crowd of more than 100 who attended Monday night’s community meeting at the nearby Kingsley Association.

The community meeting is No. 4 in a nine-step process that ends with a final vote by City Council, developers said. The proposal is currently being reviewed by the City Planning Department and Planning Commission, which will hold public hearings on the request. Reidbord predicted it would take a year for the proposal to go through this process.

Among other Specially Planned Districts in the city are Station Square, Hazelwood Green and Washington’s Landing.

One audience member questioned how the public could support the project without knowing what businesses or housing concepts would be included. The shopping center currently includes a Staples, Trader Joe’s, Petland, an alterations business, a co-working space, a hair salon, a pediatrics practice, McDonald’s and other businesses.

“We’re really here to talk about the framework of zoning and development,” Reidbord told the audience. “Really this is a meeting that we wanted to help everybody understand how the process will move forward.”

He also added that because of the lengthy approval process, changes in the evolving economy could dictate what is ultimately considered in the project.

What was clear, however, was that residents living in surrounding communities wanted to make sure they would benefit from the expansion.

State Rep. La’Tasha D. Mayes, who is Black and whose district includes Bakery Square, questioned how this project would benefit the Black community.

“I don’t think the current Bakery Square is for me or for people who look like me or who have the same experiences as me,” she said. “So that doesn’t instill confidence as you want to expand this SPD.”

Reidbord disagreed. “I invite you to come to Bakery Square on a Sunday morning and sit with me and watch people go in and out, go to the restaurants, go to the shops, hang out with their kids. Come on a Friday evening after work or in the afternoon and see the diversity of people there…you see people of all different colors, sizes, shapes, ethnicities from all over the world.”

Valerie Parm, president of the Village Collaborative of East Liberty —  a formal Registered Community Organization — said her group has been working closely with Walnut Capital to ensure the new project benefits all surrounding neighborhoods. She vows to keep the community informed every step of the way.

Other audience members said wider streets and sidewalks were needed to handle the extra traffic in the area. There also were concerns expressed about height limits of new buildings, whether affordable housing would be included and what recreation opportunities would be available for children.

Categories: The 412