Waterford Twp. OKs tax break for Summit Place project

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News
The boarded-up Summit Place Mall, located on the border of Pontiac and Waterford Township, has been an ugly and costly headache for nearly a decade. That could change, following a DTE proposal discussed Thursday by the Waterford Township Planning Commission.

Waterford Township — A plan to bring new life to the long-shuttered Summit Place Mall site received a kick start Tuesday night when the township board of trustees approved a 10-year tax abatement for commercial redevelopment.

In a unanimous 7-0 vote, the board approved a proposal requested by developer Arie Leibovitz to freeze tax assessments on the 74-acre site on the west side of Telegraph Road, north of Elizabeth Lake Road, at around $58,000, regardless of the amount of dollars and improvements poured into it.

Leibovitz told officials the tax relief will enable him to focus on his $63 million plan to demolish the vacant mall and make the area into a business park for offices, research and development, and warehouses. He plans more than $55 million in new construction, which will create more than 2,000 jobs, officials were told.

While the proposal will now go to the Michigan Tax Commission for expected final approval, some officials, like trustee Anthony Bartolotta, feel like celebrating.

“Every day over the past 10 years I have looked at it sitting there, rotting away,” said Bartolotta, who owns a car wash across from the mall. “This is exciting. At times I was the only one with an open business along here. Now there’s hope. With promised workers and visitors, some of them might even want to have their cars washed at my place.

“For years we see it just go downhill, the value of the property fading,” he said. “Why not give him 10 years to improve it and maybe start a domino effect in the area?”

For decades. the mall, which once included major department stores like J.L.Hudson and Macy’s, a food court and a movie theater, was a destination for thousands of shoppers. But time, competition and changing consumer tastes, including online shopping, took its toll, as it has at other Metro Detroit malls, including the defunct Northland Shopping Center in Southfield.

Township officials are understandably relieved to be rid of the eyesore of a mall, which they believe hampered area investment. They were also faced with the prospect of potentially having to fund the demolition, estimated to cost $2.8 million, out of their general fund.

The tax abatements cover four parcels: an old bank site of .45 acres at 201 N. Telegraph Road;  70.98 acres at 327 N. Telegraph, which includes the mall itself; a former movie theater site of about 1.67 acres adjacent to the mall at 330 Summit Place Drive; and .52 acres at the northwest corner of Elizabeth Lake and Telegraph roads.

The former Sears department store adjacent to the mall was sold last year to DTE.

Leibovitz expects to start work on the site next April with completion in December 2023.


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