Talks on a pre-development agreement between the city and Foremost Construction for turning the old DAPCO site into a modern mixed-use building could begin before the new year.
The Dexter City Council is expected to receive the recommendation of the Downtown Development Authority to enter into talks with the developer to build an apartment and retail complex at 3045 Broad St. Company representatives are hopeful the talks will begin soon and believe construction could begin as soon as spring 2017.
“We are very excited to move forward with the city of Dexter,” Foremost representative John Heiss said. “We hope we can get the pre-development agreement going even before the first of the year. It may be optimistic but we are hoping to start in the spring of 2017.”
The city’s RFQ committee recommended Foremost as the best firm to partner with to develop the vacant land. The company’s financing, timetable, engagement, experience, consultants, references and understanding the site.
The RFQ process (Request for Qualifications) is different from the normal RFP (Request for Proposal) as it requires companies to tell the city why they are best qualified to partner with the city and develop a site. The process gives both sides a chance to opt out if certain targets aren’t met, but also a chance to work closely together to make sure the project makes all parties happy.
This was the first time Dexter has used the RFQ process and it has been blazing a trail.
“We are making this process up as we go along,” Mayor Shawn Keough said. “We wanted to find a partner to help us accomplish (our goals).
“(Foremost) has shown a preference to do rental properties.”
Details such as the number of units, site plan and type of apartments are details that still need to be worked out, Keough said. For the city, it must still raze the DTE substation at the site and it has had successful talks with the utility to accomplish that objective.
The pre-development process will also involve public meetings called charrettes that will allow residents to voice their ideas and concerns.
The company still has to determine the feasibility of the project and come up with a purchase price the city will accept.
“This sets up a process where we can work together,” Keough said.
The committee learned something every step, he said, and Foremost stood out.
“I am excited to get started,” Keough said.
Committee member Tom Covert said the talks will be a long process and he appreciated Foremost sticking around during the process.
“I enjoyed the dialog,” Covert said.
Another committee member, Don Darnell, said residents needn’t worry about the city getting surprised at any juncture in the talks.
“We are going with our eyes open,” Darnell said.
Residents should know the company will operate with an open books approach, Heiss said. The company believes in transparency and congratulated the DDA and committee for its timing.
“This is relatively fast for a municipality,” he said.
As for the talks, it might be in a full calendar process getting all the approvals and site plan approved, Heiss said.
“The final scope and size will depend on the market analysis,” he said.
Community Development Manager Michelle Aniol, who has been guiding the DDA, Council and committee through the RFQ process is pleased another milestone has been reached.
“It’s been a very thorough process,” she said. “The RFQ Committee has been very diligent. They need to be, this is a big decision, you don’t just do it with a sleight of hand.”
The committee was very diligent, and very careful about the conversations and the questions that were asked of the developers both at the public meetings and the one-on-one interviews, Aniol said.
“There was commitment to ensure that this process resulted in something positive for the community,” she said. “The committee is committed to with this pre-development agreement.”
In the case the talks break down, the process was still a worthwhile effort, Aniol said.
“There’s nothing wrong with going through the process and one or both decide this isn’t working for us,” she said. “We haven’t lost anything. It’s all a learning process. This thing is going to continue to move forward.”
For acting chair Doug Finn, the process has meant a sharp learning curve.
“The process is kind of new for the city to embark upon as we went out to contractors to ask them if are qualified to do the scope of the project,” he said. “So we want to partner with them to get the development that works for them, but also work for the city.
We like that process and we like having something that is going to be a landmark place for the city of Dexter and will highlight a long process which we’ve gone to development along that river that will be something special.”
The company’s experience and breadth of projects it has done was a tipping point for the committee, Finn said.
“Some of the projects (Foremost) highlighted they have done are just fantastic,” he said. “They came to us first, and were excited about that opportunity as were we.”