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No work done to turn half-built hotels, vacant for 4 years, into apartments near Muskegon

Posted By: mlive on February 12, 2023.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

Nearly a year after getting approval to turn half-built hotels in Fruitport Township into apartments, the developer has done nothing to move the project forward.

Stellar Hospitality started construction on what was to be hotels near the Lakes Mall in 2018, but stopped in 2019 after being sued over a non-compete clause.

With hotels no longer an option, the Farmington Hills-based company received township approval in March 2022 to turn the building shells into apartment buildings.

The approval came with several caveats, including required moisture testing of every room in the structures and posting of an $8 million performance bond before building permits would be issued. The developer also was given 24 months to complete the project.

No work has been done on the buildings, located on Sternberg Road at Quarterline Road, since, Fruitport Township Supervisor Todd Dunham told MLive/Muskegon Chronicle.

Meanwhile, township police have had to secure plywood “doors” on the structures to prevent trespassers from accessing them, Dunham said.

The township is considering starting to issue blight ordinance violations against the building owner, he said.  When asked if Stellar Hospitality still intended to develop apartments, company spokesman Joel Yono said, “that’s still the plan.”  Yono also said he would email a statement, but that statement was not received.

Plans call for 82 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments along with an outdoor pool. Renderings provided to MLive earlier show the two buildings connected by a common space.

The location on Sternberg Road just east of the Lakes Mall is in the area of a proposed casino that has been in the works for about 15 years. Last summer, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declined to approve the casino, expressing concern that it would be constructed on land claimed by a different tribe that is seeking federal recognition.

Whitmer’s approval was required because the casino proposed by the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians is not on its reservation. The property is claimed by the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians, which has asked for federal recognition – a decision on which has been delayed for three weeks, Dunham said on Thursday, Feb. 9.

The Little River Band has said it plans to restart the approval process by reapplying for federal recognition, which had already been granted.  The four-story buildings have remained virtually untouched – other than township-required action to make them secure — for nearly four years.

Construction on the hotels, which were to be a Holiday Inn Express and a Town Place Suites by Marriott, began in the summer of 2018. It halted in March 2019 when Muskegon hotel owner Jon Rooks filed a lawsuit against Stellar Hospitality CEO Malik Abdulnoor.  Abdulnoor had sold the Holiday Inn in downtown Muskegon to Rooks, and the sales agreement prevented Abdulnoor from being involved in any hotel business within 14 miles of the downtown hotel until 2028.

Rooks, who has since rebranded the downtown hotel a Marriott, sued Abdulnoor in March 2019 after learning of his involvement with the construction of the Sternberg hotels. A judge ruled in Rooks’ favor in June 2019.

Rooks also owns the Shoreline Inn in downtown Muskegon.

About 1 ½ miles from the half-built hotels, a large apartment complex called Harmony Lake is under construction, with the first units recently completed. The complex on the former Fruitport Golf Club off Harvey Street will have more than 200 apartments.

Construction also is underway on a Holiday Inn Express and Suites Hotel less than a mile from Stellar’s unfinished buildings. The developer of the hotel is Amerilodge Group of Bloomfield Hills.

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