Thursday, June 21, 2012
Janet Kreger's Comments at DDA meeting 6.21.12
Hello. I’m Janet Kreger with the Michigan Historic Preservation Network. I am here to again speak with you about the Longworth Property.
The Longworth Property has been a feature on the Chelsea streetscape for more than a century. During that time, the three buildings have seen their heyday, but also a more recent period of decline.
Until earlier this week, these buildings were slated to become a lively new center of dining, retail activity, and downtown living. We thought these buildings were safe when a qualified development team stepped forward to invest in them. But that team has backed away.
These past few years have been tough for old buildings. The Michigan Historic Preservation Network knows this because it works all over the state with DDAs, City Councils, preservation groups, and individuals who are re-using economically viable historic buildings.
In many communities, projects have not gone forward because there simply have been no investment dollars out there. But the development team of Abe Kadushin, J.C. Beal, and their partners seemed to reflect a sea change. They wanted to invest in Chelsea because they knew the potential of the Longworth site.
What stood in the way was nothing more than the need for additional time because the DDA’s June 7 Resolution raised concerns for the development group.
First, the Resolution specifically stated, “that the DDA invites the development team to submit its draft agreement to the DDA on or before June 21, 2012…(and it) must be accompanied by the irrevocable bank letter of credit of $1M or other security acceptable to the DDA…” This was a two week timeframe.
Second, the Resolution specifically stated, “Due diligence and other contingencies, including financial commitment, shall end September 7, 2012, when the agreement shall become firm...” This was a 90-day timeframe.
Both timeframes were too short to pull together the financial packaging for an adaptive reuse project of this size and scope.
Here’s why. In addition to other financing, the developers needed to qualify the Longworth project for two incentives reserved for historic buildings. The first incentive’s application has a 60-day review process. It must be approved before the second can even be prepared and begin its own 30-day-plus review process. Only when these incentives, other financing, and due diligence come together, could a letter of credit or other security be secured. If you were counting with me here, 90-days had been exceeded.
This is a seasoned team of professionals with a track record of working with challenging preservation projects. Their proposal was for an approximately $3.7 million redevelopment including private equity, incentive financing, and debt financing in addition to the equity investment of one of the project partners who wished to live in Chelsea in the Longworth Property. What they sought from Chelsea was flexibility on timeframes based on the realities of their challenges.
The City of Chelsea had the opportunity both to save historic buildings important to the community and to fulfill its fiscal responsibility to its residents. Some flexibility was needed. The development team might still be available to talk. Will you, as members of the DDA, talk with them?