Appeals court blocks Pontiac from razing parking deck

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Pontiac — The Michigan Court of Appeals has once again ruled against a city’s planned demolition of a Pontiac business district parking structure.

In an opinion released Wednesday, Judges found in favor of Ottawa Towers in a dispute with the city over its plan to level the aging Phoenix Center parking structure. Ottawa Towers operates two, eight-story office buildings which connect to the parking structure where tenants park.

The decision concerned the city’s appeal of Oakland Circuit Judge Michael Warren’s ruling last July in favor of Ottawa Towers and standing liens against the parking structure. The city maintained the structure was in such disrepair that it was too costly to fix it and too dangerous to keep it open.

City officials want to demolish the structure and open up Saginaw south of the business district and across Orchard Lake Road, which runs underneath the parking structure.

The city condemned the property in March 2014 and said it will cost more than $8.1 million to repair and nearly $200,000 a year to maintain.

This week’s ruling marks the sixth time state courts have ruled in favor of Ottawa Towers.

Mayor Deirdre Waterman said city officials are disappointed with the ruling and reviewing its next steps with its lawyers.

“The city is moving forward on a number of fronts to resolve this matter,” she said in a statement. “Ultimately, our goal is unchanged to develop the Phoenix Center area in the manner that captures its best economic potential for the city’s development and best benefits the citizens.”

The owners of Ottawa Towers and some local businesses applauded the news.

“We’re pleased with the outcome of this case and hope that it finally means an end to the adversarial and confrontational stance the City of Pontiac has adopted — wasting hundreds of thousands of precious taxpayer dollars along the way,” Ottawa Towers’ partner Mike Stephens said in a new release. “Today’s ruling is an important victory and we call on the city to end its other frivolous lawsuits, which are hampering economic development and investment in our city.”

Amir Daiza, operator of the Elektricity Nightclub across from the Phoenix Center, said the ruling was “great news for residents and small businesses in Pontiac.”

“As a businessman invested in Pontiac and committed to our city’s rebirth, I believe it’s high time for the city to end its legal witch hunt against Ottawa Towers,” Daiza said. “These lawsuits send a terrible message to business owners looking to invest in downtown Pontiac. Instead, city government should be working together with businesses and residents to bring back our downtown.”

Ottawa Towers argues the structure should remain in place because it provides essential parking for visitors. It will also cost more than $6 million to bulldoze the structure.

The planned demolition has been a controversial issue in Pontiac. Once touted as a key to rebuilding the city’s downtown business district, the Phoenix Center was built in 1980 at a cost of $23 million. It’s rooftop amphitheater was envisioned as a place to hold concerts and events. But proper management of the facility was never achieved and in recent years it was rarely used for public events.

mmartindale@detroitnews.com

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