With less than a half hour of discussion, the Urban Redevelopment Authority board of directors unanimously voted to grant Zukin Development Corporation and Collaborative Ventures an exclusive negotiation agreement for development of the Garden Theater Block for up to 90 days.

Zukin Development and Collaborative Ventures, a joint venture entity, were recommended to the URA board by Northside Tomorrow, a joint venture of the Northside Leadership Conference and Central Northside Neighborhood Council. Northside Tomorrow chose Zukin’s proposal out of five that were submitted in response to a request for proposals put out in May.

Northside Tomorrow President Kirk Burkley said, “We believe we came up with the absolutely best thing we could do for this block out of a lot of good ideas.”

Zukin plans to turn the Garden Theater itself into a small grocery store that focuses on healthy, locally-grown food; something similar to Trader Joe’s or the East End Co-Op. The rest of the block will become restaurants, small local businesses and apartment buildings. You can read more about the Zukin proposal here.

Wayne Zukin, president of Zukin Realty, said his next step is to talk to prospective tenants. “They might talk to us before, but now we can say here, this is a real project. Our focus is going to be on local tenants.”

After he gets a feel for the kinds of tenants that are actually interested in the project, he said he’ll refine his proposal to make sure it’s in line with what he hears from tenants. He said having restaurants was important because they create foot traffic and help spur development.

During the board discussion, board Chairman and mayor’s Chief of Staff Yarone Zober asked Zuckin what his finances looked like, and how he would cover any gaps.

Zuckin replied, “How can we fill gaps we don’t know about yet?” He went on to explain that he would rely on government money, historic tax credits and URA financing.

There was also a brief discussion on Zuckin’s previous development experience. He has developed several Victorian town homes in West Chester, Pa., into restaurants and boutique businesses with apartments on top.

At the end of 90 days, Zuckin has to have secured letters of intent from both tenants and lenders, and to have refined his proposal.  The board can decide to extend the proposal at the end of that time.

Check back at www.thenorthsidechronicle.com tomorrow for more information.