The coronavirus pandemic has slowed a developer's plan to purchase and develop City of Saline land on East Michigan Avenue.
GBA Development LLC has plans to purchase 6.5 acres, between Zippy's Auto Wash and The Oaks Shopping Plaza, and develop a grocery store along Michigan Avenue, some retail and restaurants, and an assisted living center along the back of the property. The city and developer agreed on a price of $817,500.
At the developer's request, city council voted last Monday to extend the purchase agreement, which was set to expire in August, another 90 days until Nov. 18, with a closing date no later than Dec. 18. It's the third 90-day extension granted to GBA.
Tony Caprarese is VP and Partner at Swisher Commercia, the brokerage marketing the properties for the city. He told council the impact of coronavirus has slowed the progress. GBA is negotiating to bring an assisted living company, owned by a national company, to the parcel. Due to the coronavirus, that company has had to focus on issues in existing facilities. In a memo to council, Caprarese said it would be "optimistic" to believe a project could have been finalized by August.
He said GBA's interest remains strong and that the company has every intention of completing the project.
There may be other challenges down the road. Caprarese said once restaurant and hospitality businesses come back online after the pandemic, they may rethink the way they do things in the future.
Still, he said, while everything is on hold, he remains optimistic.
Mayor Brian Marl said GBA LLC's request was reasonable.
"In light of the global health pandemic, you can't meet with people. I'm not sure how you could even discuss financing," Marl said.
Marl said it was important for the city to continue showing flexibility and accommodation to bring jobs and investment to the community.
Councillor Dean Girbach said while he was concerned by the idea the development could lose retail, he noted that an assisted living facility could generate substantial tax dollars.
Councillor Janet Dillon said she had great concern about an assisted living facility in that location.
"It could be a greater drain on first responders at a time when we don't know what our staffing levels will be," Dillon said.
And, Dillon noted, when the city chose between development ideas for the property, GBA Development's proposal did not include a nursing home. The city chose GBA Development over a proposal that included an IHA medical center.
Council voted 5-2 in favor of extending the agreement.
Councillors Dillon and Christen Mitchell voted against the motion.