By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
SOUTHGATE – The tallest building Downriver, Southgate Tower, a long-vacant former bank office building, may be redeveloped into apartments, with ground-floor retail, pending approval of a zoning change by the City Council.
The city’s planning commission has recommended the rezoning, which the council discussed during its Sept. 15 virtual meeting. Public hearings would be held before the council votes on the zoning change.
The former PNC Bank property, at 16333 Trenton Road, rises 14 stories, and sits on a 12.18-acre site. It is zoned Restricted Office, and the applicant is seeking Planned Development zoning.
Alex Begin, a partner with Gordon Begin Properties of Madison Heights, who attended the Sept. 15 online council meeting, said asbestos abatement in the high-rise will likely have a $2.7 million price tag, for which they would seek a brownfield tax credit.
Brownfield tax credits provide a redevelopment incentive in the form of an income tax credit equal to a percentage of the cost of remediating a brownfield property, with annual and total capped limits. It is administered by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Begin said they would focus on the tower first, and will not look at the redevelopment of other sections of the property at this time, while acknowledging that the existing parking area is vastly larger than what would be needed.
He said the developer’s biggest challenge is obtaining a guaranteed quote from a general contractor.
Begin said the renovation of the high-rise likely will take two to two-and-a-half years to complete.
An analysis by the municipal planning firm of Carlisle Wortman of Ann Arbor noted that the redevelopment would create 115 to 150 apartments.
Mayor Joseph Kuspa said he has been looking at the possibilities for the building for decades.
“This is really a game-changer for this part of the city,” he said. “I think this will be an amazing development.”
Council President John Graziani said the proposed rezoning provides the flexibility needed to make the best use of the property.
“It is a golden opportunity,” he said. “I truly hope it works out.”
Kuspa noted that Southgate Tower is currently owned by a South American company, which has resulted in a time delay in selling it to the proposed developers.
He said the future use of the building is important to the city.
“This is a wonderful prospect for Southgate,” he said.