The City of Saline plans to sell city-owned land on East Michigan Avenue for a retail and restaurant development.
Without taking a vote, Saline City Council showed near unanimity when choosing to sell the property to GBA Development LLC, which wants to buy the entire 6.5 acre to develop retail and restaurants, instead of IHA, which wanted only Michigan Avenue frontage to build a health services building.
GBA, based in Farmington Hills, is offering to buy the property for $815,000. The property would be owned by a company and subject to full taxation. IHA was offering $325,000 for three acres – leaving the city with 3.5 acres of property that might have been difficult to sell and develop. There are also concerns that since IHA is a subsidiary of a non-profit, the city wouldn’t capture taxes on the property.
Mayor Brian Marl said both proposals had virtue, but expressed firm support for the GBA offer.
“As a matter of principle I believe frontage along East Michigan Avenue should be reserved for commercial enterprises – especially those who put strong emphasis on aesthetics and quality service. As such, I strongly favor the proposal from GBA Development LLC,” Marl said. “They are proposing to utilize the entire property, providing the asking price per acre and not requesting any additional incentives.”
Marl said GBA’s contacts with regional and national brands will help attract unique businesses to Saline.
Marl encouraged city staff to reach a purchase agreement with GBA. Marl said a city council task force would continue working with GBA to help recruit businesses that are likely to succeed in Saline and not cannibalize existing businesses.
Marl said he would work with IHA to find a home in Saline.
“I have long stated this community needs a 24-hour emergency room or urgent care facility as it directly relates to our quality of life and to the well being of our citizens. Moreover, the city would benefit from additional primary care physicians and specialty medical services,” Marl said. “I remain committed to working with IHA to develop a location within town that would meet their needs.”
Marl opened it up for statements from council members, who were largely in agreement.
Only Councillor Heidi McClelland seemed to have any reservations with the GBA proposal.
“I’m concerned about adding another strip mall when there is one across the street that’s half empty, still,” McClelland said. “I would like to see a medical facility. I don’t know if this is the right space for (IHA), but I do see a very big need to have something like IHA in town.”
Lot 20A is located between the soon-to-open Zippy Auto Wash and The Oaks Shopping Plaza. The 6.54-acre parcel has 221 feet of frontage on Michigan Avenue. The city is eager to sell the property, at $125,000 an acre, for one-time revenue and then collect tax revenue on the property when it is developed.
IHA’s proposal was to purchase just three acres for $125,000 per acre. The health care provider was interested in the property fronting Michigan Avenue, and not the “back lot” portion of the property. IHA suggested an unusual arrangement for the back lot. IHA promised to pay for the construction of a retention pond on that property. The pond would service IHA’s property and, perhaps, whatever else is developed on what’s left of the property. IHA was proposing a single-story, 11,650-square foot building. It would house primary-care physicians, an urgent care facility as well as labs and x-rays and other services.
In its letter to council GBA said it planned 5,000-square-foot multi-tenant building that would be housed by three national fast-food service tenants. It also planned a 2,500-square-foot Culvers restaurant. It also proposed another 3,500-square-foot sit-down restaurant. Attard hinted at other potential clients at Monday’s meeting. He spoke of a Hollywood backed burger chain that’s only starting to make inroads in Michigan. He also spoke about attracting a Korean/Southwestern/fusion/farm-to-table restaurant. Attard said his development would attract a coffee house chain – saying Saline’s coffee drinkers were underserved. The back portion of the property could be developed to include a trampoline center, a swim school and small, national chain grocer that caters to foodies.
The property is being marketed by Tony Caprarese, of Swisher Commercial. Caprarese said he talked GBA and IHA about partnering on the property, with GBA along Michigan Avenue and IHA in back, but IHA was firm on maintaining Michigan Avenue frontage.