A building in a prime downtown spot that’s sat empty for a decade is about to get a new lease on life.
The Wyandotte Downtown Development Authority is purchasing at the corner of Biddle and Maple for $500,000.
Mayor Joseph Peterson, who sits on the DDA, said he’s been in negotiations for more than a year with the building’s owners, Michael Bozenski and Gary Lamb.
“We finally have both signatures on the contract,” Peterson said. "I would call it almost like the peace talks."
A recent site assessment found four underground tanks on the property. Not wanting that to hold up the potential sale, Peterson said, city officials voted at Monday night’s City Council meeting to sign a stipulation saying they’re knowingly purchasing the building with the tanks underneath.
Once the building is purchased, Peterson said, the city will conduct an environmental study to see if the tanks are safe as they are or whether they need to be removed. It’s a small price to pay to be able to seal the deal, he said.
“It’s a great thing to happen to the city,” Peterson said. “I’m proud to be the mayor to make it happen. I’m proud of the hard work that’s gone into the negotiations.”
While there are no immediate plans for the building’s future use, Peterson said, he’s confident the DDA will be able to market it in a way to find a new owner.
“It’s a building in the city we think can be rehabbed and will put some energy back into the downtown,” he said.
DDA Director Natalie Rankine agrees, saying she isn’t going into the process with any preconceived notions on what the building will be down the road, but instead is anxious to see what ideas prospective developers come up with for the building.
While the current owners have been unable to sell the building for years, Rankine said she’s not concerned the DDA will face a similar problem as the two entities are entirely different.
Unlike with private owners, Rankine said, state grants are available for projects when a governmental body, such as a DDA, partners with a developer.
“We can assist whomever in aligning a grant,” she said. “We also might be able to provide funding to help facilitate the development. If it’s a good enough development, we might not make any money on it. And that’s OK.
“If it becomes a wash and we redevelop a white elephant that has been sitting vacant for 10 years, … that’s what matters. The DDA isn’t in business to make money. We’re in the business of economic development and that’s more important.”
And that economic development comes in part from having a vibrant business in a prime downtown spot, bringing customers and foot traffic to the area, she said.
, a children's clothing and women's accessory store, is attached to the Sears Building and leases its spot from the current owners. Rankine said the DDA intends to allow the store to continue leasing its space. However, once the DDA sells the building, Cecilia Melody’s will have to work out a deal with the new owner or relocate.