Aquarium plan for Gateway Project scrapped - KCTV5

Aquarium plan for Gateway Project scrapped

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More than six years after the Mission Mall came crashing down, plans to replace it are changing again, and neighbors are still waiting for progress to be made.

Plans for the vacant lot have been tossed around for years. Some were excited about the latest proposal for a new aquarium and hotel, but that plan has been nixed and it's back to the drawing board.

It was going to be a large scale aquarium and hotel - a children and tourists' attraction. But the New York development company, that owns the property where the Mission Mall once stood, said that's no longer on the table.

The Gateway Developers, a New York Company, decided not to pursue state STAR Bonds to help fund the project and stated they could not build the aquarium or the hotel without it.

"We are disappointed. This was going to be a state-of-the-art aquarium. This would have been a great feature," Mission Mayor Laura McConwell said.

Ideas have been going back and forth for the property for the past eight years and McConwell said she understands residents' frustration with the lack of progress.

"We are disappointed, but the developer has owned the property for the last seven years. They pay the mortgage, keep the grass cut," she said.

So it's back to the original plan of a retail, restaurant, entertainment and shopping space, including a Walmart as the anchor store. Some residents still have mixed views about the initial idea.

"I don't love the Walmart idea, but I would like to see something there. I don't understand why it has taken it this long. It's an eyesore and I'm very much disappointed," Mission resident Jill Wilson Schultze said.

On the other hand, Jim Blakely, who owns a barber shop in Mission, welcomes the Walmart plan.

"Having an aquarium here and the one at Crown Center, they would have clashed heads and it would have failed," Blakely said.

McConwell reassured residents that the end product will be worth the years of waiting.

"It will be worth the wait. It's too valuable of a piece of property to have the wrong thing go in there," she said.

In a statement sent to KCTV5, Tom Valenti, one of the managing partners of The Gateway Developers stated that they know excluding the aquarium and Star Bonds is disappointing, but the state of the bond market and commercial financing for tourist attractions and hotels is challenging in this economy.

The Gateway Developers will submit a new plan to the city.

Click here and click here for previous coverage on this story.

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