Andrew Trzaska | November 27, 2012
The developer who currently owns the Shoreline Inn hotel and plans to build condos and apartments in Downtown Muskegon will purchase the old fire station from the city for $1 to move his company headquarters to Muskegon.
John Rooks, owner of Parkland Muskegon, plans to make $100,000 worth of improvements to the building in the next two years. Part of the agreement includes having the corporate headquarters open by June 1 of 2013.
Active use of the fire station ended when the new downtown location at Western and Terrace Street opened. According to the city clerk and a member of the department of public safety, it is mostly used for storage at the current time.
The contract notes that the city is selling the property as-is, meaning it does not owe Rooks anything regarding the condition or habitability of the building. If Rooks fails to comply with the requirements of the contract, the property will revert to the city’s ownership.
City documents indicate that the city has weighed future tax revenues from the property against essentially giving it away.
“We’ve had this property on the market for some time,” said Cathy Brubaker-Clarke, Director of Community and Economic Development for the city “You know Mr. Rooks. He invests heavily in Muskegon and he wraps up his projects. Right now he is wrapping up his projects in Grand Rapids and Muskegon is his new focus.”
Vice Mayor Larry Spataro answered criticisms of the $1 price tag. He focused on the value proposition for the city and for Rooks as the developer:
“The reality is with real estate, it’s only worth what someone else is willing to pay,” said Spataro. It’s no longer useful as a fire station, but it’s a solid building. When you look that it’s over than an 80 year building, if you depreciate it we have gotten our value out of the building. It is a drain on city finances. It produces no revenue but we still have to maintain it.”
“This makes sense. The building will be preserved, it will be put to use, it will create jobs in the community and it will for the first time pay property taxes to help pay to support the city.”
Rooks was present at Tuesday’s meeting. He spoke to the reasoning behind his decision to move his company headquarters to Muskegon and into the firehouse:
“Our idea was that we might as well take advantage of synergy as much as possible. If we are going to do High Points Flats, we are going to do another property known as Terrace Point Peninsula.”
The Terrace Point Peninsula project will follow the High Point Flats project, which seeks to convert the tall white building on the corner of Western Avenue and Second Street into condos. Terrace Point, according to Rooks, will include homes, possibly for retirees.
Rooks stated that he has more employees in Muskegon than at any other location in his company’s reach. Even Grand Rapids has fewer, as he contracts out building management.
On a question from commissioner Lea Markowski about the character of the building, Rooks stated he wanted to maintain the firehouse feel, and even use the garage doors for a business to have indoor/outdoor presence. Apartments, offices, and even a brewery are ideas Rooks mused about at Tuesday’s meeting.
Tuesday’s vote passed 5-0. Commissioners Willie German, Jr. and Sue Wierengo were not present at the meeting.
Brubaker-Clarke indicated that anyone interested in leasing space in the building in the future should contact her office or Rooks’s company, Parkland Development.