By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
LINCOLN PARK – Economic Development Corporation and Downtown Development Authority Director Carl Malysz provided an update for the City Council on the Sears property during its March 7 meeting.
Malysz said in the past year, city officials have had several conversations with parties that own part of the Sears complex.
“One party is Grand Sakwa, and they own about 10 to 13 acres that is where the mall structure per se was,” he said.
Malysz said they have been in communications with Seritage, the property owners of the Sears building, as well.
“For a few years, Seritage was interested in trying to get a big box commercial back into the property,” he said. “Obviously, that hasn’t happened, and Grand Sakwa, I’m am not sure what they were necessarily wanting to do, but eventually they tore down some of the structures that they controlled.”
Malysz said both companies have come to the conclusion that the best thing for them to do is to sell the real estate, and to sell it for something that, from his standpoint as an Economic Development director, doesn’t excite him much for the city in general.
“They are talking about manufacturing or warehousing,” he said. “I think we don’t want to pass up something that would be good, viably, in terms of job creation and the like, and an increase in tax base, but I think we need to analyze exactly what the outcome would be.
“Does the site have enough utility strength to support manufacturing? That would be the better of the two. If it turned out to be warehousing, with very few jobs created, and nothing but storing stuff, and maybe delivering stuff, is that what the community wants?”
Malysz said he thinks there is still a strong possibility that the former Sears site could become a mixed used development, and it might have a significant housing component and a commercial component.
“It would be more along commercial pads for smaller entities,” he said. “This is coming from conversations that I have had very recently with the redevelopment ready community people.”
Malysz said the property has obviously languished, and there have been false starts for different types of development.
“Nothing has really come to fruition, and the question is, how do we approach this,” he said. “Do we accept that the market is not going to support something that would be more inclined to be a mixed-use development, and should we settle for something else?”
Malysz said one school of thought is that something “new and shiny” would be better than nothing at all, but another viewpoint is that city officials need to work with the state and try to get other resources involved with the project, to incentivize a mixed-use development.
“Ultimately, it’s going to be the decision of the people that make the policies with the perspective land use, the zoning code and the city council,” he said. “We will come forward at some point with recommendations, very likely consistent with the Southfield Road corridor study and plan.”
Malysz said the two property owners are not interested in pursuing a project which would put a new courthouse on the site.
“Their only concern is to sell the property, and liquidate it, for the ‘highest and best use,’ they say,” he said. “For their vantage point, and the research that they have done, they feel that the highest and best use is manufacturing or warehouse type of development.”
Malysz said that right now, the value of the property continues to decline, so it is not generating as much property value as it once did.
“That is a trend that is going in the wrong direction,” he said. “From a property tax standpoint, removing the building, and building something new, will probably have an increase in assessed value, but the question is, what is the outcome of the land use, because if that kind of major development is made at this point in time, that is what it is going to be for another 25, 30, 40 years.”