I haven’t been following the local news too closely these past few days. I haven’t been feeling all that well, and, to be quite honest, thinking about the current state of our community doesn’t really do much to improve my spirits. But, a reader by the name of Curt kindly asked me to check out a story in the “Ann Arbor News” about the Hudaya Muslim Community Association’s bid to acquire Ypsi Township’s vacant Ardis Elementary school, and I got sucked in. Anyway, here’s the gist of it:
…Most Ypsilanti Board of Education members say they are not opposed to the sale, but one board member wants to see the district aggressively market the building before considering the association’s $3.9 million offer…
The district should market the building just as aggressively as the school district marketed itself in billboard campaigns to attract students, board member Andy Fanta said Monday.
“We owe it to our community to see if anyone (else) is interested (in Ardis) … I’m not for dismissing this offer, but let’s put some energy into seeing what else is out there,” Fanta said…
As I understand it, the price being offered by the Muslim Association is fair. The building has been sitting vacant since 2005, and, as far as I’m aware, there has only been one other serious offer in that time, and that was when the Salvation Army agreed, over a year ago, to buy the property for less money -$3.85 million. (The Salvation Army eventually pulled out of the deal.)
I suppose that some could see the unwillingness to accept the bid as subtle racism, but I’d be inclined to give the folks who are presently unwilling to sell the benefit of the doubt. It could just be that they’d like to see a for-profit entity in the space, that would pay taxes, etc. Given the fact that much of Ypsi (CIty and Township) is already off the tax rolls, I don’t think that’s necessarily unreasonable. I do think, however, that we’d be smart not to drag our feet too long on this. It’s not as though developers are knocking down doors, looking for opportunities to invest here. And this isn’t to say that Fanta isn’t right. It might very well be true that we didn’t do enough to market the property. I suspect we didn’t. That doesn’t, however, mean that we should start now. In my opinion, we should just learn from it and move on. Right now, with the school district in the red, I think it would be irresponsible on our part to turn down the offer of $3.9 million. We cannot afford to hold onto this property for another three years, in hopes that a better offer will come along. Knowing Ypsi, we’d invest $20,000 in advertising, only to ultimately accept less for the property. (It’s not as though the recession in Michigan is going to end anytime soon.)
While we’re on the subject of poorly handled local real estate matters, it also came to my attention today that a fellow named Gary Lillie is accusing the City of being unreceptive to potential developers interested in pursuing the commercialization of the property known as Water Street. Here, courtesy of our friend Mark Higbee, is the link to that article. And here’s a clip:
…Lillie also said he approached the city last year to obtain information on the project for a California developer, who was looking for a brownfield project, and administrators told him that the city has not decided what to do with the project yet…
I guess it’s troubling that the city “ignored” Mr. Lillie, who claims to have represented developers interested in the project, if it’s true, but I’m more concerned by the fact that, after all of these years, our City leaders still don’t seem quite sure what they want to do with the project. I’ve heard that there has been some recent interest by experienced brownfield development firms, and that’s great, but I’m not convinced that we have a plan going forward, should these recent leads not bear fruit. Would it be asking too much to know where the city stands on the proposal by real estate firm CB Richard Ellis to market the property? As I understand it, the last time the project was open for bids, they were the only group to come forward with a plan. I wonder what we’re waiting for. It seems to me that we should probably accept their offer, or re-open the bid, as Mr. Lillie is suggesting.
[This post has been edited to reflect more clearly that the school in question is in the Township, and that the Water Street proposal by CB Richard Ellis was just recently made.]