(Crystal A. Proxmire, March 9, 2014)
The time has come for the City of Ferndale to begin working with a developer to bring more parking and more business capacity to Downtown Ferndale. Not only is there a developer ready to take the plunge, there are actually two. At Monday’s City Council meeting elected officials will make the choice of which developer they will grant exclusive negotiating rights to so they can work towards making new development a reality.
According to a memo from Director of Community and Economic Development Derek Delacourt, “Beztak Land Company, is requesting exclusive rights for a period of six months to negotiate the development of the western portion of the Withington parking lot. The applicant is proposing a multiple story parking structure and not less than 100 residential loft apartments. The development would be constructed on the westerly 400 feet of the approximately 800 foot lot.
“The second request, submitted by 3-60 LLC, is requesting the right to negotiate for the redevelopment of both the Troy and Withington lots. The applicant is proposing office for what is described as providing a proper environment for attracting high-tech companies, particularly later stage and second stage tech companies in the automotive, financial, and technology sectors. The agreement also proposes parking structures at both locations and a residential component.”
The vote Monday night is only the first step in the development process. Delacourt said “The proposals are not seeking approval of a specific development only the right to negotiate. Both groups have suggested criteria and concepts for their projects but project specifics would be discussed in the next steps. Neither agreements obligates the City to approve any above ground development, it only opens the window to begin discussion It is a standard first step, allowing both parties (the City and selected group) to begin expending resources towards a potential project.”
The vote would only give the selected development company the security needed to move forward in investing in researching their ideas. Drawings and plans come later in the process.
“It is important to focus on who the City is moving forward with at this point,” Delacourt said. “It is extremely important to emphasize that this is just the first step in a long process. It is important to create this window of review to allow the type of open discussion regarding the evolution of the downtown to take place. Both development teams provide what appear to be viable options for that first step. Selecting a group allows for the appropriate discussion to begin. It is also important to note that the opportunity to accomplish the goals and objectives of both the City’s Plan and the DDA’s plan though a public/private partnership is important.”
The choice will not be easy, and public input is suggested at Monday’s meeting. “The City’s master Land Use Plan and the adopted strategy of the DDA support the concept of increasing diversity of use (office/residential/retail) in the downtown and expanding parking capacity. Both projects are potentially capable of accomplishing these goals. Both projects are consistent with the goal of the City and Region to create transit friendly development along the Woodward Corridor and in the City. The City is fortunate to have two development groups, both with extremely strong local ties, to consider working with,” Delacourt said.
Each company submitted information about their background.
Beztak is a development company with offices in Farmington Hills and in Boca Raton Florida. They have developed several commercial and residential spaces, including All Seasons of Rochester Hills, All Seasons of West Bloomfield, Blair Park in Jackson and Brookdale in South Lyon. For office and retail they manage several properties throughout Michigan including Waterfall Plaza in Waterford, Sugar Tree Square in West Bloomfield, and Century Plaza in Troy.
3-60 Ferndale LLC is a partnership of local business and real estate owners who have previous experience in complex mixed – use projects and in particular working with municipalities. The key companies are Sigal Holdings, LLC and Versa/CG Development Company, LLC . Sigal Holdings is run by Jake Sigal, mastermind behind Livio Connect, a Ferndale-based tech company that was recently acquired by Ford Motor Company.
The memo from Delacourt recommends working with 3-60 Ferndale. “At this time Staff is recommending moving forward with the 3-60 LLC development team. CED staff has been involved with this project since its inception. It was developed in collaboration with the management team from Livio Connect, specifically Jake Sigal. Even prior to t heir acquisition by Ford Motor staff from Livio and the CED Department were in discussions on how to bring high-tech and second stage type companies to Ferndale. We understand that this is a difficult goal in today’s real estate market. However, we believe that Ferndale presents a unique opportunity that may be attractive to companies of a specific demographic. The possibility to create the environment and space for these companies to locate and grow should be investigated now. Also, the potential to plan and develop both the Troy and Withington Lots in a coordinated manner is attractive, allowing for thorough evaluation of the needs of our downtown and may allow for a more flexible and comprehensive approach.”
Despite the recommendation, both will be considered Monday night before Council votes.
“This is the first step in a long but exciting process of making significant improvements to our downtown area. This allows us to move forward and explore an option that allows for plenty of public input and due diligence on everyone’s part,” said Councilperson Dan Martin.
Mayor Dave Coulter is excited about the potential. “We’ve worked hard on ways to increase parking and to bring more residential, office and retail development to our downtown. On Monday we’ll consider taking an exciting first step in making those goals a reality. I think these proposals show the confidence people have in Ferndale as a place to invest in and be successful,” Coulter said.
For more information, view the agenda for Monday’s meeting at http://ferndale-mi.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=3&event_id=54&meta_id=39754/.
EDITORS NOTE: The project is called the 3-60 Project, not 360 Project.