Economic Development Director Chris Buck made his first public appearance since announcing his decision to resign at the Downtown Development Authority meeting on Feb. 3 and defended his new job.
Buck, who played an important role in the DDA’s proceedings, will vacate his position after spending the past two-and-a-half years leading committees such as the DDA and the Economic Development Corporation.
Confronting the new position
DDA member Jim Spanos confronted Buck about whether his new position as the Chief Operating Officer for Martin Commercial Properties would be a conflict of interest.
“Now what kind of a conflict of interest is that?” said Spanos about Buck’s vacancy. “You’re withholding a piece of property and negotiating at the same time you are working here. Sir, you should leave the township today.”
Martin Commercial Properties is a company the DDA has dealt with on several occasions including several projects on several of the township’s vacant lots including the senior living center proposed in Haslett.
“It’s a commercial real estate company … they basically have their signs in front of empty buildings trying to find new tenants to fill them officially and then they do property management,” Buck said about the company. Martin Commercial Properties looks to find new tenants to fill vacancies.
Meridian Township’s accomplishments under Buck’s term
Since Buck’s appointment to the Economic Development Director position, the township has accomplished several major goals for Meridian Township.
Buck said the most memorable project in the past few years was the “Village of Okemos,” which would develop a focal point for Okemos at the intersection of Hamilton and Okemos roads.
“The Village of Okemos,” number one,” Buck said. “I mean that’s been really just about everything this team, the DDA, has been responsible for … with that I’ve had to help propose different zoning amendments that would allow the type of development project he (True North Development/Will Randle – member of the DDA) wants to build be allowed to be built there.”
The DDA also rewrote their Tax Increment Financing plan to “become more robust” after discussing the plan with the other taxing jurisdiction, including Lansing Community College and Capital Region International Airport, on whether they would opt into the plan.
The Tax Increment Financing adjustment is considered a success in Buck’s mind because it will bring in more money for the township to help fix the area around future developments, such as plumbing, electricity and infrastructure.
“The goal was to raise funds to reimburse the developer,” Buck said about the modifications made to the plan. “For all of the work they had to do to upgrade all of those things to get a development-ready piece of land.”
Breaking ground on “Marketplace on the Green”
The township has finally broken ground on the “Marketplace on the Green” project, which was first announced in April 2019.
“It was very exciting,” said Township Trustee Patricia Herring Jackson. “I’ve been working with the township in different capacities for a long time and things just seem to have picked up pace,” Herring Jackson said after the meeting. “Things are happening, lots of things are happening. We’re in a good place.”
Township Manager Frank Walsh also gave an update on the “Marketplace on the Green” project, which officially broke ground in late Jan.
The project, first proposed in April 2019, will occupy the vacant space north of Meridian Mall and would allow for ample parking in the mall’s parking lot.
This development “… is going to be the focal point of our community,” Walsh said. “It’s going to be housing our new farmer’s market and all kinds of events… It’s just going to be a really great addition to our community.”
The project has generated a very positive public response because of the need to accommodate the public’s growing interest and demand for a larger marketplace.
The former farmers market, at 5151 Marsh Rd., near the Meridian Municipal Building, was “mumbled and jumbled” on market day, said Walsh.
“(It’s) probably one of the most popular projects that we’ve seen the community get behind. They’re really excited about it,” Walsh said. “It will be a welcome addition, not only to the community but to the vendors as well.”
Walsh said construction will begin now that the ground has been broken, and says the township plans on hosting its first farmers market at Marketplace on the Green in June or July 2020.
The next DDA meeting will be held on March 2 at 7:30 a.m.