Bob Cook Homes LLC released a preliminary design for a potential new business development by the Arkansas River.
The design paints property owner Bob Cook’s vision for the project, which is projected to be built on a 3.96-acre lot just south of Warren Riverview Park.
Key features in the design include space for a restaurant, which would be adjacent to an events building and an events lawn.
Since the design is not final, it has not been brought to the Derby Planning Commission for approval.
“I actually had a couple of people from the city down here the other day, and I gave them a copy of it to look at,” Cook said. “What I’m trying to do is get some interest up and get somebody interested in running a restaurant.”
In bringing a restaurant to the development, Cook said he is not looking for a chain. Instead, he wants to bring in a local business to make it a destination place, like a “nice steakhouse.”
Ideally, Cook says the restaurant would utilize large glass windows and decking to take advantage of the view of the Arkansas River. Adjacent to the restaurant is a proposed rentable events room, which would have a capacity of 250-300 people.
“Whoever comes in here, I want to make sure we put something that’s compatible with what their [restaurant’s] theme is,” he said. “But we’re thinking something kind of rustic.”
Wedding receptions are one idea that Cook had in mind when proposing the events room. He says the two adjacent rooms could be separated by a microbrewery, so attendees would feel free to have other restaurants cater their events.
Ultimately, Cook would like to develop office space with the restaurant and events room, including moving his own office to the location. Current zoning for the lot allows him to go up to three stories high.
Cook does not currently have estimates for the square footage of the restaurant or events room.
Other features proposed in the design are a parking lot with approximately 140 spaces, an outdoor eating area, a fire pit, and terracing to allow visitors to walk directly to the river from the development.
A proposed events lawn in the design could be used for outdoor games like cornhole, Cook said, but also potentially for concerts, wedding receptions or even ceremonies.
A final estimated cost for the project has not yet been established.
The land, located at the end of West Washington Avenue, was formerly a concrete industrial site. The lot has to be cleared to allow development of the project.
“I’ve got all the outside blocked down, the perimeter fencing is all down,” he said. “I’ve got two of the buildings pushed out, and there’s one metal building left here.”
Cook said work will soon begin to remove a concrete parking area from the lot, which will be crushed and recycled. He anticipates that it will take until the end of the summer to completely clear the lot.
Old and dying trees have also been removed from the lot to help clear a view of the river. If possible, Cook hopes to keep live trees and river banks intact.
“The city’s already done an excellent job with this park next door, and I think it’s going to be a destination place, not just for Derby, but for the surrounding towns,” Cook said. “As people come in from the west, it really gives the town a good look.”
Cook says he hopes to begin construction on the development this year.
The final recommendations for the new Derby schools boundary changes have been made. The boundary committee, made up of 50 people consisting of school staff, parents and community members, rubber-stamped the plan after six months of study.
The plans were presented to the board and a small audience who attended the unveiling at the Austin Room in the Derby Welcome Center on Monday night. The Board of Education is expected to consider the new boundary plans as an action item in the next school board meeting later this month.
Rob Schwarz, CEO of RSP, who acted as a consultant to guide the committee and district through the process, presented three primary points that were heavy considerations in the process.
The points included the closing of Pleasantview Elementary and how reassigning those students would impact other schools. Another was the establishment of boundaries for the new school, Stone Creek Elementary and the growth of Derby on the east and north sides. The third point was the challenges at Wineteer Elementary that include the location and capacity issues that would impact reducing the boundary area for that school.
The new plan would continue to maintain the incomplete feeder system for Park Hill Elementary and Tanglewood Elementary. This means students from those two elementary schools would feed into both Derby Middle School and Derby North Middle School.
Schwarz said in the end 89 percent of the committee members agreed to the elementary school boundary process while 84 percent agreed with the middle school feeder recommendations. He said these percentages were some of the highest they have had in the 16 years his company has been working with school districts.
Joanna Pryor, committee member and mother of three Derby students, shared her personal experience with the boundary changes. As a parent of El Paso students, Pryor said they love the school they currently attend and she was deeply saddened when she learned that the changes would put her kids in a different school.
“I was really upset and cried all the way home. But when you looked at the map, it really didn’t make sense for El Paso to take the neighborhood I lived in. We’re going to be OK,” Pryor said.
School board member Justin Kippenberger had some concerns over placement of students in a couple of west Derby neighborhoods.
He made the point that two of the prior workshop maps had Huckleberry Estates and the Riviera neighborhoods to the south of Oaklawn Elementary going to that school. But the final plan showed them going to Derby Hills Elementary on the east side of Derby.
“I don’t fully see taking those areas and pulling them across K-15 to Derby Hills. There has to be a reason in particular why we moved them,” Kippenberger said. His concern was also that Derby Hills was near capacity.
Schwarz said the capacity was available for students at Derby Hills, and public input with people expressing they didn’t want to go north and they wanted to go east was a factor.
“That started the exploration. In the south part of district we are already moving west to east. It didn’t appear to be too much out of the ordinary to do it in other places within the district,” Schwarz said.
“In both proposals prior to this, it had them going to the same place [Oaklawn]. It just doesn’t seem to add up,” Kippenberger said.
Derby Schools Superintendent Heather Bohaty added that ultimately the committee made that choice based on numbers, capacity and more. She said they considered both areas and that [Derby Hills] was the choice they wanted to recommend.
Board member Mark May asked if statistics on what would be seen with the changeover of El Paso because of Pleasantview closing would be available.
May said that El Paso is running near capacity, Tanglewood is lower at 90 percent and Oaklawn’s future projection is at 75 percent. He suggested that maybe there was a way to relieve El Paso and Tanglewood.
“I struggle with the optics of your percentages, to be honest, but I do appreciate the effort,” he said.
Bohaty said El Paso used to run a higher section of students in the same space than other schools. She said the decision was made not to do that.
“That figure could go different ways if you decide to change the class size. We feel comfortable with it running at 97 percent, knowing there is some flexibility there.”
Bohaty also indicated that it is also important to keep in mind that those percentages can change based on the board’s criteria to be able to take in students.