Thursday, July 12, 2012
Two points communicated to City Council on 7.10.12 regarding timing of funding and process required of DDA
July 9, 2012
Chelsea City Council
Meeting July 10, 2012
Good evening, Members of the Chelsea City Council. My name is Ellen Thackery and I am the Southeast Michigan Field Representative for two nonprofit organizations, the Michigan Historic Preservation Network and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. I am here tonight to communicate two points of interest about the Longworth Complex—a complex both of my organizations believe is a valuable historic asset to your community and to our shared heritage. I am directing these comments to you because you are the elected, legislative body and I know that all things that affect your city and its residents are relevant here and because I believe that the Longworth Complex issue has become urgent and the discussion of this issue should not wait until the next DDA meeting on July 19.
The first point of interest that I’d like to convey is a matter of timing as it pertains to the Longworth Complex. On June 7, the Chelsea DDA passed a resolution that requested that the development team chosen to rehabilitate the Longworth Complex submit an irrevocable bank letter of credit of $1 million along with their modified proposal by June 21. It’s important for you to know how difficult or even impossible that request is to fulfill. We speak from our own current experience. The Michigan Historic Preservation Network (MHPN) is developing a historic property ourselves in Old Town Lansing as our offices. The property agreement was finalized in November 2011, asbestos abatement has occurred, our architectural designs have been developed, and many other due diligence activities and engineering and environmental studies have taken place on the property since November 2011. And we are, just now, in July of 2012, waiting for the permanent loan commitment from our bank, which will indeed come. It has taken us about 8 months of environmental and financial investments before we could obtain that commitment. I don’t know how it would be possible to obtain that kind of commitment from a bank within two weeks or even 90 days of a project’s start.
The second point of interest that I’d like to convey is to note for you that the state law that enables DDAs requires that any city-owned properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places receive a State Historic Preservation Office review before the city changes the exterior of the building. As you know, the National Register is an honorary designation that affords access to the Federal Rehab Tax Credit program, and in the vast majority of cases, there is no oversight of any of these properties listed on the National Register. In this case, because the Longworth Complex is City-owned and listed on the National Register, the complex requires a State Historic Preservation Office review before the City and/or the DDA make final decisions about the buildings. The DDA is determining now and over the coming weeks what its intentions for the Longworth Complex are, but if the intentions could involve demolition or even simply changing the exterior, I did want to bring that necessary review to your attention.
In conclusion, because of both of these points, I am urging you to act on behalf of the historic buildings in your care and to intercede if the DDA does decide to do anything than have these buildings rehabilitated by a seasoned development team committed to their revitalization. These buildings were purchased by the City and these buildings are City assets. We urge you to encourage more time for gathering approvals, due diligence, and securing bank support. Several MONTHS are needed for this project, not just a couple weeks. And please ensure that the buildings’ State Historic Preservation Office review occurs in accordance with the state law.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Michigan Historic Preservation Network and the National Trust for Historic Preservation
107 E Grand River Ave.
Lansing, MI 48906