A local developer who backed off building a 24-unit residential project on Ouellette Avenue when the Downtown Mission announced it was moving into the central library building across the street, has revved it back up and added eight more units.
“I believe the project has gotten better and bigger,” Peter Valente told city council Monday, while urging councillors to address rising crime rates, homelessness and addiction problems in the downtown.
The fact you’re going through with it is a sign of your dedication
Valente’s project was the first significant new residential development announced for the downtown in more than two decades, and is tied to the city’s one-year-old community improvement plan that provides incentives for projects that bring more residents into the downtown. The CIP’s been an unqualified success, spurring $60 million in new development and several hundred new residential units with more to come.
Next week, council’s Planning, Heritage and Economic Development Standing Committee will hear a CIP application for eight residential units proposed for the top floor of a long-vacant Ouellette Avenue commercial building, plus a 152-unit residential building on vacant land at Wyandotte Street West and Crawford Avenue.
Valente said he plans to start construction on his building in February and have people moving in before Christmas of 2019. Last March, he said that the announced move by the Mission put his project in jeopardy. He said he felt like his legs had been cut out at the knees by the Mission deal with the city-controlled library. But he decided to go ahead because he’d already bought the long-vacant property and believed he could address any safety concerns of his future residents with features like latest technology entry systems and a gated parking lot.
“I’m going to do whatever it takes,” he said. “Before anything else, before how nice the cabinets are, how nice the bathrooms are, people want to know they’re going to be safe.”
Valente said that earlier in the day Monday he talked to Mayor Drew Dilkens, who detailed the multiple strategies to deal with rising crime and homelessness in the downtown, including recent moves to add 24 more police officers.
“I was happy to hear what the mayor told me, I think that’s a positive thing,” Valente said. “We all want to see the downtown build up and more people living there.”
He said he recently purchased an adjacent property which allowed him to expand to 32 units. The value of the project has gone from about $5 million to $7 million. The CIP incentives include $2,500 grants for every new residential unit created up to $50,000. But the biggest incentive is an annual grant that gives back the increase in municipal taxes on a property once it’s been developed. For Valente’s project, that means he’ll pay the current taxes of $8,210 annually for vacant land, instead of the taxes of $78,888 for the 32-unit building. That adds up to $706.775 in savings over 10 years.
“I’m not just here for incentives. Incentives are great, don’t get me wrong, they’re what brought me,” Valente told council. “But safety is No. 1.”
Coun. Bill Marra said Valente’s project is an example of how the CIP has helped local entrepreneurs invest in their community. “When you look at all the downtown development, it’s a slew of local companies,” Marra said.
“I know for a while there was some trepidation,” he said to Valente. “The fact you’re going through with it is a sign of your dedication.”