The Bountiful Redevelopment Agency should adopt the motto "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again."
And again. And again.Despite four failed attempts to revitalize downtown, members of the RDA board have signed yet another agreement with yet another developer who they hope will breathe new life into the anemic Bountiful Main Street retail scene.
This time, a wary Bountiful RDA, which is composed of the mayor and City Council members, will be dealing with Johansen-Thackeray and Co., a firm that has a track record with Foothill Village in Salt Lake City.
Armand Johansen and John Thackeray plan an ambitious $8 million retail development they say will "change people's shopping habits" in Davis County.
Johansen-Thackeray bought Foothill Village six years ago and embarked on a major renovation that more than doubled its tenants, from 23 to 57.
Impressed by that success, Bountiful officials hope the company can work similar miracles with Block 29, bordered by Main and 100 West and Center and 100 South.
During the past decade, four developers have failed to attract the right tenants or obtain adequate financing for any projects on the block, the majority of which is owned by the RDA. The City Council was so distraught over the most recent failure that it voted to abolish the RDA, a motion the council later reversed.
For any project to succeed downtown, it must be larger than one block, according to Thackeray.
"We're not interested in a one-block development. We need at least two to create the critical mass to be successful."
"Critical mass," Thackeray said, means "enough tenants and enough diversity of stores to get people to come downtown to shop."
Ideally, the developers would prefer three blocks - Block 29, the block north and the block south. The RDA owns portions of land on all the blocks, land that would be sold at low cost to Johansen-Thackeray if the terms of the agreement are met.
Four to six major retail stores - 10,000 to 20,000 square feet each - would anchor the development, which would include 15 to 18 smaller tenants.
The 180,000-square-foot project would be about 70 percent the size of Foothill Village, whose surrounding community compares demographically with Bountiful, Thackeray said.
He said the plan has generated a great deal of interest among retailers.
"We've talked to 12 major companies that have expressed interest in that space," he said, refusing to name any.
The Johansen-Thackeray project appeals to the RDA because of its scope and also because the agreement gives the city the right to terminate if the company fails to perform certain tasks by the end of five specific, three-month periods.
The two biggest obstacles in the project are financing and a historical unwillingness of property owners in that area to sell their land.
Johansen-Thackeray will meet next week with attorney Keith L. Stahle, who owns a slice of property on Block 29 and whose home sits on 20,000 square feet on the block to the south. Stahle has been reluctant to sell his downtown properties and may refuse to sell to Johansen-Thackeray.
Thackeray said financing will be difficult but he believes it can be obtained.
Demolition on Block 29 in downtown Bountiful is scheduled to begin the week of Jan. 28.
The Bountiful Redevelopment Agency on Wednesday approved an $18,200 bid award to MacKay Kim Inc., Salt Lake City, to remove a section of structures along Main Street from Center Street to and including the Coop Building.
Last fall, the RDA, comprised of the City Council and the mayor, voted to remove the RDA-owned buildings, which have been deemed unsightly and unsafe.