Fates of huge Oakland County sites to be decided soon

The fates of three prominent north Oakland County properties could be resolved in the next several months.

Officials in Pontiac and Waterford Township have long tried to find solutions for the blighted Summit Place Mall and Pontiac Silverdome properties. Meanwhile, the owner of The Palace of Auburn Hills is in the process of determining what to do with the arena once the Detroit Pistons pack their bags for Little Caesars Arena in downtown Detroit later this year.

Now, demolition of the Silverdome is scheduled to begin this summer, and new details have emerged about what a yet-to-be identified developer wants to do with the mall that straddles the Waterford/Pontiac border.

Combined, those properties and the Palace make up more than 300 acres of property with either active redevelopment proposals or a high likelihood of redevelopment in the not-so-distant future.

PROMINENT PROPERTIES

The most prominent sites in north Oakland County.Summit Place Mall: 75 acres

Pontiac Silverdome: 127.5 acres

The Palace of Auburn Hills: 110 acres

Oakland Technology Park: 100 acres

Time will tell what happens: There is a crucial April 10 meeting on the Summit Place fate, and last week’s court agreement makes it all but certain the Silverdome will be demolished in the next several months.

They are among the most prominent — and perplexing — sites in north Oakland County, with bounds of potential uses for whoever can make the redevelopments work.

Another 100 acres of developable land across three sites are available at the Oakland Technology Park in Auburn Hills, though development questions have proved less vexing for these parcels.

Summit Place Mall

Delivered a death by a thousand cuts over the last several years, the Summit Place Mall site at Telegraph and Elizabeth Lake roads sits empty and blighted.

It has been the target of redevelopment proposals ranging from minor-league baseball stadiums to water parks to multifamily housing, none of which have materialized.

Now the Waterford Township board expects to vote April 10 on whether to allow a sale of the property to a private development group that has not been publicly identified due to a nondisclosure agreement.

“’Hello and welcome, or goodbye,’” Supervisor Gary Wall said, characterizing the decision expected to be made next week.

What happens with the site is up in the air. But Eric Banks, executive principal and executive director of brokerage services for Bingham Farms-based Core Partners, which is representing Santa Monica-based owner SD Capital LLC in the sale, said a “major sports and entertainment development” project is planned.

The nuts and bolts, according to Banks: a 12,000-seat arena with basketball courts, four hockey rinks, a wave pool, an IMAX theater, a hotel, 100,000 square feet of sports-related retail space, outlot restaurants, soccer and football fields and other uses.

Earlier this year, Crain’s reported that former Detroit Lions wide receiver Herman Moore was in talks to invest with the development group, and former University of Michigan basketball player and current Oakland Community College men’s basketball coach Antoine Joubert was a committed investor.

There is a tentative purchase agreement, which has a six-month due diligence period, to buy the mall from SD Capital.

If the township does not accept the plan next week, it could consider moving forward with its dangerous building process, likely leading to demolition of the mall, which opened in 1963 and was developed by what is now Farmington Hills-based Ramco-Gershenson Properties Trust (NYSE: RPT).

Wall said the site is massive.

“I have 40-plus years in the construction business and I have never worked (on) anything of this size,” he said.

First known as the Pontiac Mall, it began declining when nearby Great Lakes Crossing Outlets in Auburn Hills, developed by Bloomfield Hills-based Taubman Centers Inc., opened in 1998 and siphoned shoppers northeast.

The enclosed portion of Summit Place Mall closed in 2009 following years of decline. Anchor stores Macy’s and J.C. Penney closed in 2010 and Sears closed in December 2014.

If the plan is approved, parts of the mall would be demolished, and other parts might be repurposed, Banks said.

“The developer had been looking at other areas south near the airport, and one of the things that attracted them to this site was a large swath of land that could be redeveloped.”

Pontiac Silverdome

Photo by Crain’s Detroit BusinessThe remains of the Silverdome in Pontiac.

Perhaps the best-known ruin in Oakland County, the Silverdome has been the subject of a pair of legal battles in recent months that could be settled soon. Last week, its owner agreed to demolish the Silverdome as part of a lawsuit filed by the city in late February. Steve Apostolopoulos, co-founder and managing partner of Triple Properties, which owns the 80,311-seat former home of the Detroit Lions at Opdyke and Featherstone roads, declined comment last week.

But in a news release last week, his father, Andreas Apostolopoulos, CEO of Toronto-based Triple Investment Group, said the company has “reached a point where we must say goodbye to what was once one of the world’s greatest venues.”

“As we say goodbye to an iconic place that was the setting for so many great memories, we put in place new development opportunities for one of the most unique properties in our nation.”

Late last year, Triple Properties sued the local office of Los Angeles-based CBRE Inc., which had marketed the property for sale, alleging that brokers had not properly informed Triple that there was an opportunity to extend a lease for a portion of the site for FCA USA LLC parking.

John Latessa, president of the CBRE Midwest Division, which oversees the Southfield office, declined comment.

A year and a half ago, a conceptual rendering demonstrated the site’s potential:

A 500,000-square-foot corporate headquarters or light industrial building.

Four single-story light industrial buildings totaling 750,000 square feet.

Retail and entertainment space totaling 192,000 square feet.

A 104,000-square-foot hotel.

Nearly 46,000 square feet of residential space.

And another 50,000 square feet of multitenant commercial space that would include restaurants.

The concept would require the complete demolition of the Silverdome.

Triple Properties purchased the Silverdome at auction from the city in 2009 for $583,000, just 1.05 percent of the total 1975 construction cost of $55.7 million.

The Lions moved to Ford Field in downtown Detroit in 2002. In recent years, the Silverdome has fallen into disrepair, with its inflated ceiling collapsing and its field and seats strewn with debris.

The Palace of Auburn Hills

Photo by Palace Sports & EntertainmentThe Palace of Auburn Hills.

In November, the Pistons announced they would be moving from the 22,000-seat Palace to Little Caesars Arena in downtown Detroit, which is under construction and expected to be complete in time for the 2017-18 NHL and NBA seasons.

Real estate experts have said they expect the Palace to eventually be demolished and redeveloped. Among the development probabilities: corporate users, which have headed to Auburn Hills in droves in the last several years to build new North American and global headquarters buildings and other facilities, like research and development space.

City Manager Tom Tanghe said city officials will meet with Palace Sports & Entertainment in the coming weeks to discuss the fate of the property, which sits on about 100 acres.

“These discussions will be preliminary since they have plans to continue the use of the offices and practice facility into 2018,” he said. “That means we have some time to plan with them.”

Kevin Grigg, a spokesman for PS&E, said “nothing has been determined regarding the future of The Palace other than the Pistons won’t be playing basketball at the venue next year.”

The team and Henry Ford Health System announced a new joint training, medical facility and team HQ in February planned for the block west of Cass Avenue on what is a parking lot between Second and Third avenues, bounded by railroad tracks to the north and Amsterdam Street to the south. It’s expected to cost $83 million.

Internal conversations have also taken place about the arena’s future should it ultimately be demolished, Tanghe said.

“Clearly, the land is very strategically located and the opportunities for a number of potential uses exist, including its current use.”

Former Pistons owner Bill Davidson, whose death in 2009 led to the team’s sale to Tom Gores, built the Palace in 1988 for $90 million out of his own pocket. He spent an additional $112.5 million in subsequent renovations.

Gores has spent more than $40 million in renovations and upgrades, including a three-year replacement of all 22,000 seats in a project scheduled to wrap up this year.

The building is still widely considered to be an excellent sports and concert facility and draws first-tier acts.

Oakland Technology Park

The 1,100-acre-plus Oakland Technology Park in Auburn Hills has faced fewer struggles than the Silverdome and Summit Place Mall.

The 1,100-acre-plus Oakland Technology Park in Auburn Hills has faced fewer struggles than the Silverdome and Summit Place Mall.

It has attracted companies including Faurecia North America Inc., Atlas Copco North America Inc. and Hirotec America Inc. for new buildings, and it still has 100 acres of undeveloped land available for new projects, said Stacy Fields, asset manager for Southfield-based General Development Co. LLC, which owns the remaining property in a joint-venture with Farmington Hills-based Friedman Integrated Real Estate Solutions LLC.

She said there are two parcels — one 35 acres, another 40 acres — on High Meadow Circle and another 25-acre parcel on Entrance Drive available. The High Meadow properties can accommodate a total of 700,000 square feet, while Entrance Drive can be built with 300,000 square feet or more, Fields said.

The tech park’s more than 200 acres have attracted $100 million or more in development activity since General Development and Friedman purchased it from Chrysler Corp. during its bankruptcy for $2.5 million.

The remaining 800 or so acres of Oakland Technology Park have multiple owners, the largest of which, FCA US LLC (formerly Chrysler), owns just more than 500 of them. Others include Johnson Controls Inc. and Delphi Automotive plc.

Today, Auburn Hills is one of the bright spots in Oakland County development, regularly attracting new projects of the scope that have sprouted up in the past six years on the General Development/Friedman land.

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