Waterford Twp. leaders move forward on mall razing
Waterford Township — The long-vacant Summit Place Mall could have a date with the wrecking ball as soon as next spring, township leaders decided Tuesday.
The move after years of delays in addressing building code violations and safety hazards delighted dozens of residents who attended the meeting. Some who spoke said they wanted quick action to tackle an eyesore in the community.
“We are sick and tired of hearing excuses for the last several years,” Brent Bott, who lives near the site, told the Board of Trustees.
The property’s owners, S.D. Capital of California, will have to submit demo plans, and the demolition would start 180 days after a permit is issued.
The nearly 1.4 million-square-foot shopping center near Telegraph and Elizabeth Lake that was condemned in December 2014, was a popular destination for shoppers for decades before strip malls and internet shopping took their toll.
It opened in 1963 and once featured some 200 tenants, six anchor stores, a movie theater, restaurants, a food court and specialty businesses. By 2007, the mall was 60 percent vacant. It closed in September 2009 during the recession, leaving two anchor stores, Macy’s and J.C. Penney, which closed in 2010.
A Sears store, in a separate building on the property, shut in 2014.
S.D. Capital bought the site years ago and in 2014 listed the property for $10 million.
Last year, township-appointed dangerous buildings hearing officer Walter Pytiak ordered the demolition of the building, citing code violations and hazards. Those included a heavily damaged fire suppression system, exposed high-voltage units, standing water and leaks.
The owners have been given several extensions to correct violations and time to present a redevelopment plan, township leaders said. S.D. Capital has patched holes in the parking lot, fenced off dangerous areas and provided a clear access roadway.
Representatives for S.D. Capital argued Tuesday that progress had been made in improving the site, developing a site plan and finding a potential buyer. But the representatives feared state transformation brownfield tax credits they hoped to secure for a project would be jeopardized if the township sought demolition.
“Litigation would endanger the project,” Richard Rassel, an attorney representing the owners, told the board when discussing the need for another extension.
But after discussion with the city’s legal counsel, Supervisor Gary Wall and other board members agreed that starting the process for demolition would help, not hinder, redevelopment efforts. They also said the owners still have time to address issues.
“I don’t see it as a deal killer,” Wall said.
Wall has estimated that it could cost between $80 million and $100 million to rehabilitate the mall.
Board members also said they preferred to move ahead with demolition instead of letting the site deteriorate further.
“I would want to see a vacant piece of land,” Clerk Sue Camilleri said to applause.
Rassel and representatives for the owners declined to speak with reporters after the decision.
Some residents were not pleased with the board’s move.
“There are many things that could be done with that property,” said Steve Darling, who has lived in the township for more than 30 years.