By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
TRENTON — In spite of a slight delay, City Administrator Jim Wagner said he remains optimistic that the former Riverside Hospital property will be redeveloped and that neighboring resident concerns will be addressed.
“We’re moving in the right direction,” Wagner said. “One way or the other we’ll come to closure on this in the near future.”
That future can’t be near enough for homeowners living near the long-dormant hospital grounds on West Jefferson. For several years false starts and unfulfilled promises frustrated neighbors as the complex attracted vandalism and presented safety and health issues.
Last month, tempers flared during back-to-back meetings of the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority as residents demanded better answers from the city and Dr. Iqbal Nasir, owner of the property.
Since acquiring the complex in 2011 Nasir has presented several plans that stayed on the drawing board. The city imposed a series of deadlines on Nasir, both for progress on redevelopment and that he address lighting as well as health and safety concerns, including security at the site.
Still, Wagner said the project Nasir outlined earlier this year of turning the complex into a medical mall is moving forward. Nasir had asked for a postponement of a planned public meeting earlier this month, but has met other requirements of the city. Additionally, the former chairman of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, George Jackson, has been brought in to consult on the project, and — per agreement with city officials — Wagner will serve as liaison between Nasir and neighboring residents.
A public meeting is expected next month, at which time Nasir
will update homeowners and the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority on progress made. According to a letter Nasir sent to Wagner on Aug. 1, he expects to report considerable progress at that time.
“We will continue working with city officials to address matters of immediate concern regarding security, providing electricity to the site and the general appearance of the property,” Nasir said.
Earlier this year Nasir made some progress with upgrades to the site’s landscaping and fence, and will soon have installed security cameras.
Wagner said Nasir had applied to the state for a certificate of need, and had allowed city officials to inspect the site.
“He’s got to do something,” Wagner said. “I’m looking for a long-term deal that we don’t have to renegotiate in two years. I don’t want the person who follows me to have to deal with this.”
(James Mitchell can be reached at [email protected].)