DDA members asked developers questions about financing this past Monday as they push to continue the Village of Okemos project in Meridian Township.
In July 2019, the DDA approved by a unanimous vote the $110 million Village of Okemos project that consists of seven buildings near the intersection of Hamilton and Okemos Roads that would house new restaurants and businesses that would appeal to families and individuals of all ages.
“It’s going to be like a space like we don’t have,” said Chris Buck, Economic Development Director for Meridian Township. “ I think you are going to end up with a lot of residences and places to eat. It’s going to be like a little village.”
Even though this could sound like a good idea Jim Spanos, a Meridian Township resident and DDA member, said he’s concerned about using taxpayer dollars for the project.
Spanos said: “Why is Meridian Township spending taxpayer dollars if they don’t know that residents want this. Looking at this through the taxpayer’s eyes, why use my money to help developers when they have money?”
William C. Randle, Chief Operating Officer for True North Development, explained how his company is contributing financially to the development.
“Somewhere in the neighborhood of $400,000 to $500,000 has already been spent to get the clean up done that has been completed outside,” said Randle.
This clarifies some of the funding, but $7.2 million remains for this project.
Even though Meridian Township is unique on its own, there are hopes it will mirror Birmingham and Northville, two cities in Michigan.
“Some of the people that have worked on the Downtown Okemos development project as the project itself has come from the city of Birmingham so there are some elements that have made Birmingham as vibrant,” said Buck. “The architect team comes from Northville, Michigan. Some of the architectural features there mirror some of the work that has been done in Northville.”
The Downtown Okemos project ran into some issues at the beginning of planning such as environmental remediation.
“In downtown Okemos, we had all kinds of problems about environmental remediation that not only had to occur but had to be paid for,” said Patricia Herring-Jackson, Member of the Board of trustees. “We had to find a way to pay for it and help the developer do that.”
Herring-Jackson also said taxpayers in Meridian Township are going to be affected by this project in a positive way.
“Taxpayers in Meridian Township are going to be positively affected in that we get renewal of some of our infrastructure,” said Herring-Jackson. I think we have been in need of some revitalization and repair … I want quality lifestyles for all of the residents that live and work here.”
The next meeting for the Downtown Development Authority committee will be held March 2 at 7:30 a.m. at the Municipal Building.