Residents near former AMC Headquarters site want community benefits deal

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

As NorthPoint Development seeks $32.6 million in tax incentives to clean up the former AMC Headquarters site, some neighborhood residents want the Detroit City Council to call for the developer to enter a voluntary community benefits agreement.

Meanwhile, officials say the developer has made commitments to the neighborhood, including park renovation, priority hiring and a plan to downgrade the industrial zoning at the site.

During its meeting at 10 a.m. Tuesday, the City Council is expected to consider the Missouri-based company's request for brownfield tax increment financing to remediate the site at 14250 Plymouth.

Residents surrounding the property say that while they want to see the long-vacant site redeveloped, they have concerns about its environmental impact. 

“Residents in the impact area want this project, we want to see this eyesore removed,” resident Wendy Caldwell said in a statement, “however, we have concerns about the project and have collected more than 100 signatures asking that our City Council require this developer to attach a voluntary Community Benefits Agreement to this project with environmental protections.” 

According to the social justice network Detroit People's Platform, residents living near the project submitted the petition to the City Council on Thursday. 

When reached by email, NorthPoint officials did not immediately respond Monday to a question asking if the firm would consider a voluntary agreement.  

The project falls short of the $75 million threshold that triggers the city's community benefits ordinance. The developer has said it plans to invest $71 million to redevelop the 50-acre site. The hard costs are estimated to be $66 million.

The ordinance provides for a neighborhood advisory council that negotiates with the developer to provide benefits in a project's impact area, such as environmental protections, recreational amenities and hiring preferences.

NorthPoint, in conjunction with the city’s Department of Neighborhoods, has held three neighborhood meetings and one with the city’s brownfield community advisory committee, said Kenyetta Hairston-Bridges, executive vice president of economic development and investment services for the Detroit Economic Growth Corp., to the City Council’s planning and economic development committee on Thursday.

“That has led to some common alignment around some items such as neighborhood beautification and priority hiring of Detroit residents,” Hairston-Bridges said.

Among other commitments were developing a Black industrial developer mentorship program, improvements to the Mallet Playfield and the Shirley Greenbelt and rezoning the AMC site from heavy industrial to restricted industrial.

“What that will mean for us is that our end tenant will be limited in the types of uses that they can bring into our facility,” said Brian Ellison, principal of Intersection Consulting Group, who spoke on behalf of NorthPoint on Thursday. “So it's designed to do a certain type of work and our tenancy is restricted to a certain type of work. So it's a much more neighborhood compatible zoning designation.”

Despite the commitments, some residents continue to press for a formal agreement between the developer and the neighborhood through a CBO process.  

"As an industrial development located at the center of a residential neighborhood, residents believe it is imperative the city and developer do everything they can to ensure that this site is not further contributing to a negative quality of life and negative health impacts that residents have experienced for decades," Detroit People’s Platform wrote in its statement.

According to the city, while the tax incentive request is for $32.6 million, it is projected that NorthPoint would receive $21.7 million in reimbursement during the 34-year term.

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN