By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
TRENTON — The landmark former A&W Root Beer property in downtown will remain undeveloped for now as city officials said that a potential deal to put a coffee/ice cream shop at the stand fell through.
Trenton City Administrator Jim Wagner said that local entrepreneur Mark Hayes appeared close to purchasing the property for redevelopment as a Bear Claw Coffee and Calder’s Ice Cream outlet, but that realtors with Signature Associates had been asking more than Hayes could afford.
“He went as high as he could go,” Wagner said of Hayes’ $65,000 purchase offer. “They paid $55,000 for it; he offered them some money, they countered and he countered.”
Wagner said the building needed repairs due to a flooded basement and parking lot drainage issues, and the asking price was too costly. According to Wagner, Hayes reached out to A&W to explore re-opening the stand as a franchisee, which also proved cost prohibitive.
Given a choice, Mayor Kyle Stack would like to see the restaurant re-open without a name change, and plans to contact A&W corporate.
“I’d like to see if they would consider it,” Stack said. “It’s one of the oldest [restaurants], and we’d like to see if they would take it over.”
Wagner is optimistic that something will happen with the property this year, part of a renewed spate of activity seen in the city. Along with continued efforts to find developers interested in revitalizing the former Detroit Steel property and resolving the long-standing concerns about the former Riverside
Hospital, Wagner said that Downtown Trenton remains a top priority. A business proposal is being drafted for city-owned property at Jefferson and West Road; Stack anticipated a plan this week for making progress on the hospital; and daily activity at city hall involves interest from prospective businesses.
“I spend probably 50 percent of my time on economic development,” Wagner said, citing five separate meetings last week to discuss development at Detroit Steel. Wagner said city officials are well aware of public impatience.
“These are getting to be like albatrosses on the city,” Wagner said. “People have been putting up with them for years, but right now things seem to be turning around.”
(James Mitchell can be reached at [email protected].)