Mixed forecast in redevelopment of high-profile properties in Macomb County
From industrial firms to retailers and from land owners to community planners, the mantra of real estate agents applies. Location, location, location.
With mixed results, some of Macomb County’s largest parcels appear destined for redevelopment. A few remain vacant with no immediate plan, while announcements and groundbreakings are on the horizon at others.
Projects could be worth tens of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs.
Some of the prime properties including the Chesterfield Town Center, the former Gibraltar Trade Center, the former Romeo Golf Course, the closed Salt River Golf Course and the former Visteon plant in Shelby Township that is home to the big Amazon distribution center.
At the Chesterfield Town Center along Interstate 94 between M-59 and 21 Mile Road, the eagerly awaited opening of the Cabela’s store in August 2017 marked the first project to spring from the 200-acre site that was once a lagoon. After the property was sold and the lagoons drained, several development plans under previous owners fizzled.
A very short distance away, Ikea was the idea.
The Swedish furniture retailer considered building a $45 million, 300,000-square-foot second furniture store in metro Detroit, on the prime property just north of Selfridge Air National Guard Base.
Reports in November 2017 that Ikea was eyeing Macomb and Oakland counties for its second store in southeast Michigan (the other is in Canton Township in Wayne County) created a buzz in Macomb. A Chesterfield Township official even placed yard signs on commercial property along M-59 on the opposite side of I-94, in front of the Menard’s store, hoping Ikea representatives believed to be visiting the area would feel welcome.
“We felt very good about it (and) thought it was a natural (fit),” said Thomas Guastello, president of Birmingham-based real estate investment firm Center Management and owner of Chesterfield Town Center.
He noted that easy access from I-94 would attract Ikea shoppers from Canada entering the U.S. from Sarnia or Windsor.
Guastello said Ikea stepped back from plans to build large stores in suburban areas to focus instead on much smaller stores in upscale, urban markets. To show desirability of the property remains strong, Guastello told The Macomb Daily three new companies will open at the Town Center:
- BJ’s Wholesale Club will break ground this month on a 90,000-square-foot building at the southeast portion of the property. The Massachusetts-based membership-only wholesale club announced last November that it planned to expand into Michigan by opening stories in Madison Heights and Taylor in late 2019.
- HomeGoods, part of the T.J. Maxx company, and Burlington are expected to begin construction in the fall.
- Negotiations are nearing completion with another big box retailer also upward of 50,000 square feet, said Guastello, adding that he cannot divulge the name of the store yet.
With expected construction of the four new stores, approximately 140 acres would still be available.
“We’re talking to theaters and health clubs. With all the people coming in, that makes it a natural, as well as hotels and restaurants,” said Guastello, who plans to attend the International Council Shopping Centers convention next week in Las Vegas.
Several years ago, former owners of the 200-acre parcel envisioned a convention center with restaurants and entertainment that could fill a need on the east side from Detroit to Port Huron, and as an option for trade shows to the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi. However, that grand plan fizzled with the Great Recession. It also was envisioned as a retail outlet center, but many major retailers who were expanding did so at a lesser rate as more consumers turned to online shopping.
Chesterfield Township Supervisor Dan Acciavatti said Town Center will put the township on the map with people across Michigan who know little about any of the state’s 1,240 townships.
“It is extremely important,” he said of the development. “We have been doing everything in our power as a government, as a township, to facilitate that. Having Cabela’s here speaks for itself.”
Salt River Flats
In 2016, the Chesterfield Township Planning Commission approved a site plan for Salt River Flats, a residential development with 163 houses on the former Salt River Golf Course that closed in 2014. A 48,000-square-foot building that included the golf clubhouse, a 32-lane bowling alley and 350-seat banquet room, also was demolished.
According to the site plan, the houses would be developed as site condominiums tucked on approximately 115 acres between two subdivisions on the north side of 23 Mile Road, west of Baker Road. Home sizes ranged between 2,300 square feet and 3,500 square feet with prices starting at $330,000 and up to $500,000.
Plans called for most lots measuring 80-by-130 feet and 45 acres of open space. Some nearby residents had voiced concern about flooding on the property and access for emergency vehicles.
No infrastructure work has started, and the site plan that was valid upon approval for three years expires in December.
Acciavatti said no infrastructure plans have been submitted for engineering review.
“Yes, we’re reaching out and yes, we hope the project gets going,” he said, “but ultimately it’s in the owner’s and developer’s hands.”
The sign that includes the derby-wearing “big man” at the shuttered Gibraltar Trade Center in Mount Clemens remains a landmark along westbound Interstate 94. In 2017, when then-owner Bob Koester announced the 600,000-square-foot indoor public marketplace that had operated on weekends for 27 years on what was once the site of the Mount Clemens Race Track would be closing that August, speculation began about what might take its place. Zoned for industrial use, some observers predicted it would be improved along those lines.
With a prime location and quick access to I-94 via North River Road, some wondered if it would become home to a new UPS or FedEx facility.
Local businessman Jim George purchased the 58-acre property, which also hosted carnivals, concerts and motorcycle and car shows in the parking lot.
“We have no plans submitted,” George said Friday when asked about the future of the site and declined to elaborate on potential or preferred uses.
George also owns the mostly vacant Parkway Plaza shopping center, on Groesbeck Highway at Metropolitan Parkway in Clinton Township. He purchased the 12.7-acre center – including slightly more than 150,000 square feet of retail space – at an auction last year for more than $2 million after a bank had foreclosed on the property, according to a township official. The bidding took place approximately three years after anchor tenant Kroger closed its doors after more than two decades. Today, only two stores remain open in the center which was bustling for three decades with tenants that included a variety of retailers over the years including T.J. Maxx, ACO Hardware, women’s clothing stores, a pizzeria, a toy store, a Hallmark cards and gift shop, a drug store and others.
Clinton Township officials anticipate the property will be spruced up, including repairs to the parking lot, improved signage and landscaping.
George said he has not filed any plans yet for the site.
Another vacant former golf course also appeared headed for major investment and redevelopment.
In December 2017, Biltmore Development LLC presented its goal for a planned unit development, or PUD, on the property that was home to the Romeo Golf Course and County Club. The 18-hole course, located on 32 Mile Road just east of M-53 in Washington Township, closed in 2012.
Biltmore – which developed The Mall at Partridge Creek in Clinton Township — planned to build homes and commercial, medical, office and retail buildings as part of a planned-unit development across from the Romeo Ford Engine Plant. With the name Washington Landing, it was proposed adjacent to a second PUD of 80 acres including a Meijer store, on land owned by the Karam family.
Concerns by township planning commissioners over residential density sent the project back to the drawing board.
“It’s kind of frozen at this time,” Washington Township Supervisor Dan O’Leary said.
Biltmore’s option to purchase the property expired and the development firm was unable to reach a new purchase agreement with the family, he said.
No site plans have been submitted for any portion of the more than 500 acres, one of the largest open sites in the township. A sign covering the face of one of the weathered signs along 32 Mile states the property is for sale and includes a telephone number.
At the township hall, officials occasionally field inquiries from developers.
“There’s interest every month or so that someone will ask about it,” said O’Leary, who described it as a “great” site.
The township supervisor acknowledged extensive infrastructure improvements would be needed but he noted the township’s new wastewater treatment plant which is expected to be fully operational this summer, will provide sanitary sewer service right to the 32 Mile Road line on the edge of the former golf course property.
He said the Michigan Economic Development Corporation is aware of the site and hopes the agency could offer financial incentives to lure developers if the Karam family agrees to sell the land.
“I think the family has a long-term view and will sell when they feel it’s right,” O’Leary added. “We’re always willing to help out. We’re poised and ready when the opportunity comes.”
State, county and Shelby Township leaders were delighted after Amazon in September 2017 confirmed reports it would open a new fulfillment center at the southeast corner of 23 Mile and Mound roads. The huge, 1 million-square-foot facility with total investment of $115 million would create 1,000 jobs, officials said.
For Shelby Township officials, the news was particularly bright because the project marked the turnaround for a significant chunk (85 acres) of the 207-acre site that was plagued by hazardous contamination and formerly occupied by a Visteon plant.
The land was home to Ford Motor Company’s trim plant for many years before it was spun off to Visteon and later phased out in 2008-09. Indiana Metals purchased the site in 2011 and had begun demolishing structures when tests showed the health-threatening chemicals TCE and TCA were found in ground water. Fearing contamination had spread to nearby homes and township baseball fields, the township sued Ford. Tests shows the contamination did not spread as widely as officials had feared. In a court settlement, Ford agreed to clean up pollution and pay $50,000 to the township for legal costs.
In 2014, a proposal for storage of recreational vehicles on 55 acres, collapsed in 2014. Zebra Holdings LLC bought it from Indiana Metals in 2015. Ownership changed again, with Hillwood Enterprises in Illinois buying the property for the Amazon facility for $6.2 million.
In August 2017, the Macomb County Board of Commissioners approved a Brownfield Redevelopment plan that funnels an estimated $10 million in property tax revenue increases over a 20-year period, to pay for environmental cleanup before construction of the Amazon center began.
The rest of the property remains undeveloped.
“Location” is at the core of a major part of efforts by the staff at the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.
In a partnership with area municipal officials and real estate developer, county planners established 10 “Strategic Development Districts” identifying areas with high-capacity infrastructure, existing and “build-to-suit” opportunities for new and expanding businesses, with some offering incentives including tax breaks.
To assist with site selection, a mapping and property analysis portal highlights prime industrial development properties. Traffic and county workforce data are also provided.
Vicky Rad, director of the Department of Planning and Economic Development, stated site selection assistance online helps real estate brokers and businesses looking to expand or relocate, including companies outside Michigan seeking property and/or business-friendly municipalities.
Rad said Macomb County has an industrial buildings vacancy rate of only 2 percent. That can be challenging when trying to showcase a selection of available large facilities. However, Rad said officials and planners should strive to combine parcels that have potential to be attractive to developers and companies.
Put another way: “Shovel ready.”
“A lot of times, these deals have to happen in six months. A lot of time, it’s all customer-driven,” Rad said.
For example, when Fiat Chrysler Automobiles announced in 2016 that the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant would be converted from production of the Chrysler 200 to the assembly of the next generation Ram 1500 pickup truck, the automaker demanded suppliers be able to deliver products on time. That sparked a flood of calls from auto suppliers looking for available manufacturing space closer to the plant, on Van Dyke Avenue, Rad said.
Similarly, county planners are looking for vacant parcels following FCA’s announcement in January 2018 that it will invest $1 billion at its Warren Truck Plant, on Mound Road, for production of the Ram Heavy Duty pickup truck.
Posted By: Macomb Daily on May 13, 2019. For more information, please click here to read the source article.
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