GBA Pivots Away From Grocery Store, Assisted Living, Instead Plans Restaurants and 120-Unit Apartment Building

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GBA Development has changed the scope of the company's proposed project on Michigan Avenue in Saline. The company appeared before Saline City Council Monday to detail its amended plans for the 6.5-acre lot located between Zippy Auto Wash and The Oaks shopping plaza. In January of 2019, Saline City Council approved a purchase agreement to sell the city-owned land to GBA Development LLC for $817,500. That agreement has already been extended several times.

The most recent extension was due to expire at the end of this month. Saline City Council voted 6-1, Councillor Jack Ceo dissenting, in favor of a motion to extend the purchase agreement for 30 days. The matter should be back in front of council Sept. 13.

The plan has also changed several times. When first proposed, GBA representatives planned a grocery store, retail and restaurants. Later, GBA came back with plans for an assisted living center instead of retail. Now, the grocery store and assisted living center have been scrapped. Instead, GBA is planning a 12,000 square foot retail box and a 120-unit apartment building.

Matthew Attard, of GBA Development LLC, said the company pivoted away from assisted living to multifamily after studying the market.

"We think assisted living with COVID and the Delta variant coming upon us is probably not the most prudent way to maximize density and have a viable development for the community of Saline," Attard said.

Instead, the company is planning an apartment building with 120 one and two-bedroom units ranging from 680 to 1,180 square feet.

He said assisted living centers are reporting reduced occupancy. 

In addition, Attard described the 12,000-square-foot retail box that would be located closer to Michigan Avenue. He said this part of the development would have more of a "community focus" and be oriented towards entertainment.

He said potential tenants include Balance Grille, Jeremiah's Italian Ice and then a restaurant focusing on the "wrap sandwich concept." There would be an outdoor eating area, a bar and coffee bar "where people can mingle and be social."

The total value of the development is estimated at $24 million, Attard told council.

Mayor Marl offered the motion, seconded by Councillor Dean Girbach, to approve the 30-day extension to the purchase agreement. 

"I think 30 days provides staff and legal counsel ample time to negotiate with GBA and their associates," Marl said.

Marl said there were several items he'd like to see addressed over the 30 days. One of those items is bond money provided by city.

Marl also said he hoped to see 5 to 10 percent of the units set aside for affordable housing. He said his first look at a site plan showed deficiencies for parking.

"This project could be viable and I could be inclined to grant a longer extension Sept. 13," Marl said.

Councillors Girbach and Janet Dillon sat on a steering committee that worked with GBA Development on the project.,

"I think there are some opportunities here to address potentially affordable housing units," Girbach said.

Assistant City Manager Mike Greene, answering a question from Councillor Ceo, said that a three-story, 120-unit building will most likely require a variance.

"But until I see a site plan, I won't know," Greene said.

Councillor Ceo, following the meeting, explained his "no" vote.

"I think 120 units is probably too many," Ceo said. "And this project keeps changing."

Council chose GBA Development over a proposal from IHA, a local health provider. At the time, IHA only wanted the Michigan Avenue frontage, which would have reduced the value of the back half of the parcel. In addition, there was concern about IHA might use tax status to avoid property taxes.

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