The City of Farmington bought the Maxfield Training Center from Farmington Public Schools for $690,000 in May.

The City of Farmington bought the Maxfield Training Center from Farmington Public Schools for $690,000 in May.

Photo by Jonathan Shead

Farmington moves forward with MTC property after purchase

City staff working on RFQ, seeking developer interest

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published July 7, 2020


FARMINGTON — Farmington Public Schools’ Maxfield Training Center has changed hands.

In early May, the Farmington City Council decided 4-1, with Council member Maria Taylor opposing, and Farmington Public Schools Board Trustees decided 6-1, with Secretary Angie Smith dissenting, to ink a $690,000 purchase agreement for the property.

Taylor opposed the purchase, citing financial concerns about how COVID-19 could impact the city budget and concerns about going into the red after demolition and rehabilitation costs. Smith said she felt the new price was “a slap in the face” and not beneficial to the school community.

The final price was reduced by $60,000 from the city’s last offer of $750,000. Farmington city officials first expressed interest in the 58,675-square-foot former junior high school that closed in 2010 — and the roughly 3 acres of additional property that includes a portion of Shiawassee Park — back in April 2019.

The resulting price reduction came from roughly $120,000 of environmental costs that would be necessary to rehabilitate the property for new development. While the city initially wanted the district to cover those costs, the final agreement was a 50-50 split.

“There was some environmental testing that was done there, and the city thought there could be some additional costs for them, so it was agreed upon to split that difference,” said Farmington Public Schools Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Jennifer Kaminski.

Kaminski added that yearly upkeep of the Maxfield Training Center cost the district about $30,000. “If we didn’t sell it now, and knowing how COVID-19 is impacting everything in the economy, I think it was time to let it go.”

With the city of Farmington now being the sole owner of the property, they are gearing up to put out a request for developers and receive project offers.

“This city administration and council are very excited that the sale finally went through and that the city is the sole owner of it,” Farmington City Manager David Murphy said. “We look forward to getting a developer in here to take down the building and put something new up. Hopefully, it’ll be something multi residential — apartments, condominiums, something like that.”

The city is working with CIB Planning through the process. City Council members have already conducted preliminary discussions with CIB Planning representatives on the possibility of projects that could be developed on the site, as well as the tax increment financing, or TIF, revenue that could be captured from the property.

Murphy said the city is now in the stage of working with CIB Planning on a request for quotes or RFQ, also known as an invitation to bid, to bring in some interested developers. He’s not certain what project proposals may come in, but he thinks there’s a need that developers will, hopefully, meet.

“I do think there’s a need for residential units, whether they’re owned or leased, in the downtown. I hear all the time from people who say, ‘We’re retired now. We were just waiting for something to come up so that we can sell our house and move downtown,’” Murphy said. “I hear that a lot, so I think any developer coming in is going to be very pleased with how quickly they can either lease or sell the units.”

The additional three acres of Shiawassee Park included in the purchase agreement now opens up the opportunity for the city to look into connecting its two parks, Shiawassee and Riley parks, an item that’s included in the 2020-25 capital improvement plan and has been on officials’ radar for quite some time.

“That opened up the door for grants, because until we actually owned it, we couldn’t get a grant for it. … Now that we own it, we can work with a developer to make sure there is a nice walkway from park to park,” he said. “Our hope is that there will be a walkway to connect the two parks, and maybe even some parking.”

Barring any obstacles or shutdowns related to COVID-19, Murphy hopes the city can send out the RFQ within the next month and start receiving bids the couple months following that. If the city finds a developer and project it likes, and it’s approved by the Planning Commission, Murphy thinks it could be possible to start seeing some action on the property next construction season.

As for what Farmington Public Schools plans to do with the $690,000 received, Kaminski said because the purchase agreement is a one-time fund, the money will be allocated to use for future one-time purchases.

“One of the things the community had questioned us on is that we weren’t allocating or putting aside dollars for capital needs, and it’s really hard to do in a funding-reduction environment. One thing we wanted to make sure we did was take those one-time funds and put them aside to use for capital needs,” she said. “We did that with the majority of the funds we received from the Harrison sale last year.”

Of the $690,000, Kaminski said, $490,000 will be transferred to the bus purchase maintenance fund, and the remaining $200,000 will go toward the district’s technology and other projects capital fund.