Daiza: Pontiac tarnishes a local business
Recently, Oakland County Circuit Judge Michael Warren wisely threw out the latest frivolous lawsuit by the city of Pontiac against Ottawa Towers, a family-owned business here in Pontiac. This is good news for small business people and entrepreneurs, and a clear message to the city to stop harassing local businesses.
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. The city’s adversarial and confrontational actions send a horrible message to small businesses, entrepreneurs and investors inside and outside Pontiac. This is the third time a judge has sided with Ottawa Towers against the city. It’s time to stop wasting precious taxpayer dollars and start embracing local businesses as key partners in Pontiac’s turnaround.
Ottawa Towers and the connecting Phoenix Center parking structure and recreational space are true community assets. One of the towers houses state offices. The city-owned Phoenix Center was built to provide parking for downtown businesses and is crowned by a large recreational space that includes an attractive amphitheater. Wiz Khalifa was the last musician to perform at the amphitheater, attracting 7,000 people to downtown Pontiac in 2012.
Mike Stephens and his family have done an outstanding job maintaining the buildings and the Phoenix Center’s parking decks, roads and recreational space. Although the city stopped maintaining it years ago, Stephens maintains and repairs every aspect of the complex using his own money. He even fixes potholes on the roads leading into the Phoenix Center.
Stephens has gone above and beyond to keep his property safe, attractive and a local landmark our community is proud to show off. In the process, he has helped shed light on what tremendous potential the Phoenix Center, a jewel of our community, has for the future of downtown Pontiac.
This future could include concerts once again playing at the amphitheater, attracting thousands of people to downtown Pontiac, to see our community, support local businesses and give our economy a shot of adrenaline. This future could include an innovation district, where leading-edge anchor institutions and companies cluster and connect with start-ups, business incubators and accelerators — sparking innovation and creating jobs.
Because of Pontiac’s actions, development of the complex has been frozen, with investors reluctant to move forward in light of the legal cloud that has hovered over the towers and the Phoenix Center for more than three years. What a shame it would be if this community asset became another Silverdome because of the actions of politicians.
As it smears a local business that’s doing the right thing, the city is also holding back the development of a community jewel that could strengthen Pontiac’s future. It’s time for our elected officials to spend their time and energy rebuilding Pontiac, instead of tearing it down.
Amir Daiza operates Elektricity Nightclub in downtown Pontiac.