Developer, neighbor raise concerns about Training Center proposal

Farmington Public Schools officials learned more Tuesday about a recommended proposal to put 155 luxury apartments on the Maxfield Training Center site in downtown Farmington.

But developers who submitted one of the other three plans received for the 3-acre site on Thomas Street complained that their offer is better suited to what the City of Farmington envisions in that area.

Lorenzo Cavaliere and Michael Smith spoke during a 6 p.m. committee meeting and the board’s regular 7 p.m. meeting. Submitted two hours after the initial Request for Proposal (RFP) deadline, their offer includes a parking deck, 163 apartments and seven townhomes. Cavaliere said they started with the city’s Downtown Area Plan and worked backwards.

“I’m somewhat stunned that a proposal is being recommended, when it completely does not follow anything in this vision plan that the city paid for,” he said.

The recommended proposal from AC Acquisitions provides more cash, and while it does not specifically include public parking, stands a better chance of getting city approval, Facilities Director Jon Riebe said. He explained that a team including city representatives met with developers and reviewed all proposals. They were also struck by the creativity in AC Acquisitions’ portfolio.

“Administration would prefer to recommend a proposal to the board that would have a chance of being approved by the city, so that the district gets timely payment,” Riebe said.

Board members Terry Johnson and Sheilah Clay expressed concerned that Cavaliere and Smith were allowed a late submittal, accepted after consultation with the district’s legal counsel.

“When you accept the late ones, you open yourself up to everybody who would have submitted if they had another two hours,” Clay said.

Representing AC Acquisitions, Walter Cohen said rents for the apartments – from studio to three bedrooms – would run around $900 to $1,700, although he stressed those are tentative figures. The company, which has done similar projects in Detroit, Romeo, and Southfield, hopes to include some public parking and would work to find a solution for First United Methodist Church’s parking needs as well. The city has an easement to use the church-owned parking lot on the west side of the Training Center. That will remain in place, Riebe said.

“The one thing we want to be sure of is that we’re not using parking spaces that are currently used by other people downtown,” Cohen said. The company typically provides one space per bedroom, plus additional spaces for guest parking.

Chris Schroer, a 28-year resident who lives next door to the Training Center, urged officials and the successful developer to consider that the apartment building will go up near historic homes. He hopes to see a dialogue with residents of the city’s Historic District, many of whom have lived there for decades.

“We all want to see something happen,” said Schroer, who is a member of the city’s Historical Commission. “That building needs to have something done with it.”

Officials will review the proposals again at their September 20 meeting.