Even before it closed a decrepit parking structure there in 2006, the city invited developers to submit proposals for the site. It chose a plan for a huge multiuse complex stretching from Washington to Liberty, only to see it fall apart when nearby property owners refused to sell. Then the smaller apartment plan was caught up in the real estate crash. But the city gave the developer more time, and last fall Farmington Hills-based Village Green bought the site for $3.2 million. The building will include 155 rental units and a 244-space parking garage. Once it's done, the city will buy the garage for $9 million, then turn it over to the DDA to operate.
"That asset will generate its own revenue stream" in parking fees, says city CFO Tom Crawford. In addition, he notes, Village Green will pay property taxes. The site "was not on the tax rolls before, and it is now."
The city would like more such happy endings--and fewer disasters like the YMCA lot. The roots of that debacle stretch back to 1989, when the city guaranteed a loan to expand the Y's single-room-occupancy hotel. In exchange, it got first right of refusal to buy the building--which it did when the Y moved out in 2003.
The plan was to continue to operate the 100 small rooms as affordable housing--but then the heating system failed. The city closed the hotel, found other places for the residents, and put out a Request for Proposals (RFP) to redevelop the site. The RFP called for a project that would both repay the city's $3.5 million investment and replace the affordable housing.