|© Mark Bialek|
Just a few months into reviewing development proposals for the city-owned property known as "the library lot," city council member Stephen Rapundalo sounds weary.
"I don't know where the conspiracy theories come from, but nothing's been predetermined, and nothing will be on my watch," says, Rapundalo who chairs the council-appointed committee evaluating the proposals. The committee's rejection of plans for public, rather than commercial, projects--and developers' private contacts with city officials--have fueled controversy, but Rapundalo denies backroom dealings. "It's an open process," he says, "and I'm committed to due diligence."
For most taxpayers, the question is how much they may end up contributing to any development. The city has narrowed the field to two groups that want to build hotels over the $50 million, 600-space underground parking structure now under construction on South Fifth Avenue. The rub is that parking isn't enough for the would-be developers--they also want the city to build them a conference center.
One, Bloomfield Hills-based Acquest Realty Advisors, originally floated the idea that its payment for the right to build atop the structure "be reduced or deferred" until a publicly financed conference center was built across the street on the former YMCA site.
Now, Rapundalo says, the company is "backing off" from that request. In a letter to the advisory committee, Acquest president David Ong said the firm didn't mean to demand a conference center--only to explain that the development rights would be more valuable if a conference center were built nearby.
The second proposal, by Valiant Partners, leaves no doubt that public funding is required. A group with partners in White Plains, New York, and Ann Arbor, Valiant offered an immediate payment of $900,000, plus another $5.25 million over twenty years--but only if the city finances a $9 million conference center that would be integrated into its hotel-condo-retail project. Valiant figures the city could repay that debt with the money it receives for the development rights, plus property taxes generated by the project.
Under Valiant's proposal, the
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