Council members agreed it would be best to wait to enter the agreement with contractors at Brookstone until other businesses have committed to building in Village Center. The 43-acre project is expected to feature retail, restaurants, office space, a hotel, an apartment complex, green space and the new Jersey Village City Hall, but council members said they did not want City Hall to be the first building constructed there.
Officials with Collaborate, the development company behind the Village Center project, have said a wellness building and an office building should break ground this summer once they finalize land sales to those businesses. Construction of City Hall is expected to last 12 months and would commence later this summer depending on the delivery date of steel, Brookstone Vice President Ryan Busking said.
Jersey Village purchased 23.3 acres of land in August 2018 using $5.25 million in city reserves with the intention of selling the land to the developer. Nearly a dozen residents asked the council not to move forward with the contract at the May 10 meeting, saying it was premature because Collaborate had not yet purchased the land from the city.
Collaborate founding principal Saul Valentin said he anticipates closing on land sales in the coming weeks with the wellness and office partners planning to break ground over the summer. Council Member James Singleton said he would not vote on the City Hall contract until the city receives some of that money from land sales.
“I have every intent to build City Hall right here. That’s been the plan; that’s what we’ve talked about for many years,” he said. “I’m just not willing to be first, and I would like somebody else taking this ride with me. We can have all the letters of intent that are out there. If we don’t have money in there, it’s not the same level of buy-in.”
Council Member Sheri Sheppard said she would feel more comfortable moving forward with the Brookstone contract if other businesses had already committed to building in Village Center. She noted when the first discussions about the project took place 10 years ago, city leaders said they did not want to be the first to build on the property.
“It’s not about the money. It’s about the success, and we need to see movement in that direction in order to prove out that it is going to be the success that we think it is,” she said. “I am very much a supporter of building a new City Hall—anyone that’s here can see that the facility is aging and needs to be replaced—but I don’t want to build it just for the sake of building it. I want to make sure that this is the right decision for the city.”
While council members were adamant against proceeding until other businesses move forward with their own contracts, the increasing cost of building materials such as steel, concrete and wood is driving up the cost of construction.
According to city documents, Jersey Village budgeted $8 million for the project, and the guaranteed maximum price is now just over $10 million.
“This is an unprecedented market right now, and if you would have asked me in January, I would have said the volatility would have been over in March, April, May, and it’s just getting started,” Busking said. “At some point, the escalation is going to stop, and the volatility is going to stop. We don’t know when it’s going to start coming down, unfortunately.”