Hazel Park: Residents and Officials Want CVS Properties Filled

ScottWrightadTOPHazel Park: Residents and gardenfreshADOfficials Want CVS Properties Filled (video)

(Crystal A. Proxmire, July 11, 2015)

When Hazel Park City Manager Ed Klobucher talks with people from CVS next week, he hopes they will see his position and want to fill the two vacant properties it has in the city.

A building at 9 Mile and Russell, and another on John R near Chestnut have been vacant since CVS consolidated the stores and built a new one at the corner of 9 Mile and John R in 2010. Across America communities have grappled with vacancies in strip malls and shopping centers left behind by big box corporate stores. Often it is cheaper for a corporation to own a building and pay the taxes, than to risk selling it to a competitor. And with vacant buildings, there is less maintenance required since as long as a building dinos02sidelogo3is vacant, the city cannot get in to inspect it or order repairs.

Over 30 residents and city officials met Thursday to learn more about the history between CVS and the City, and to talk about ideas for encouraging CVS to fill the buildings.

“There is a lot of interest in Hazel Park right now,” said City Manager Ed Klobucher. “Having two major properties vacant does not help as we are trying to attract development.”

DDA Member Marlene Pringle got the conversation started with the DDA and fellow residents on the Facebook Group Hazel Park Cork Board. “People can type and complain, but hopefully if the time comes people will get up and do something,” Pringle said.

Members of the audience talked out ideas such as protesting at CVS, calling out the media, and looking for reasons to compel a building inspection. In 2009 residents had picketed CVS because of the move. CVS had to sue the City to allow their purchase and plans to go through.Reid_Sally_115

The 9 Mile and John R. site has an interesting past. Klobucher explained how the discord came about. “Let me give you a little history about this, ” Klobucher said.. “When CVS originally approached us to build the new CVS there, we were not happy about it.”

The site housed a 9 story hotel that was built in the 1960s as a Holiday Inn. Over the years it became Quality Inn, the Star Hotel, Guest House Inn, La Casa Inn, and finally the Days Hotel.

By 2007 it was a complete mess. Klobucher said “One of the happiest days of my life as City Manager was when I went in there with three police officers, two DPW guys, and a great big drill and a lock. And we literally put them out. What we found in there it was nothing short of appalling. We had there, probably the largest house of prostitution in Oakland County. One room had been converted into a gaming and gambling room. One half of one floor was a934_8600_Gen-Online_Banners3 chicken coop… There were all these pigeons everywhere.”

From 2007-2009 an investor began doing work on the building, but was unable to stay afloat financially. (Crain’s Detroit has a great article outlining the ownership changes and court cases involved at http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20050905/SUB/509050890/new-owner-would-redevelop-hazel-park-site)
When the mortgage was sold, the new owner immediately began the process to raze the building and sell it to CVS.

The City tried to stop the deal and CVS sued. In 2009 the City settled and CVS was able to move ahead. The hotel and adjacent parking structure went down in May 2010. (A video on You Tube shows the demolition in progress).

“We reached a deal with them to avoid having something imposed on us we did not want. The first CVS they proposed did not look anything like this CVS. It was their standard cookie-cutter CVS…. We wanted something that looked attractive, and looked like how we want our downtown area to look like,” Klobucher said. The deal included the more upscale design and the inclusion of a coffee shop, which ended up being Tim Hortons. CVS also must allow the city to advertise city chazzano game adannouncements on their electronic marquee, and that was a provision for landscaping and benches.

A rumor has been that CVS was required to fill the buildings or the City could take them over. This was a provision the City had hoped for during the settlement process, but was not able to get. The rumor persists, but is absolutely false.

City Attorney Jan Drumm spoke about property rights of the buildings’ owner. “You can tell them what they can’t do, but you can’t tell them what to do,” she said.

Klobucher said CVS has a property management company looking after the building, and they do take correctivelisa schmidt law action when tickets are issued. The City has been in touch with CVS in the past, but when this most recent spike in interest came up, they decided to gather residents and talk to them first.

“We will be reaching out to CVS next week, but we wanted to talk to you guys first,” Klobucher said.

The next step is to bring the problem to CVS’s attention and give them a chance to respond. While some are calling for picketing and boycotts, Klobucher stressed the importance of starting with a professional approach, while still knowing there is people-power behind the request.

The City cannot dictate what happens to the properties, but the residents can dream and make suggestions. At one point the 9 Mile location was being considered by a company that wantedPledge_side_blue to put in a gym. The John R. location was looked at to be a potential plasma donation center. Neither panned out.

New development is coming to Hazel Park with the transformation of an old lumber yard into Cellarmen’s brewing company, and the creation of Mabel Gray restaurant directly across the street from the shuttered John R. CVS.

The City will continue to update residents through their Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/City-of-Hazel-Park-City-Hall/. And discussion seems mainly to be taking place on the Hazel Park Cork Board at https://www.facebook.com/groups/1538474836426785/.

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