The former Firestone building at the Northland Center site, in the area of Eight Mile and Northwestern Highway, had a date with a wrecking ball last fall. The Southfield City Council recently approved two purchase plans for the property.

The former Firestone building at the Northland Center site, in the area of Eight Mile and Northwestern Highway, had a date with a wrecking ball last fall. The Southfield City Council recently approved two purchase plans for the property.

File photo by Deb Jacques

Northland property sale approved for retail, housing, medical marijuana

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published August 13, 2019 | Updated August 19, 2019 10:35am


SOUTHFIELD — The city has entered into a purchase agreement with local developers for portions of the Northland Center property. 

At a special meeting Aug. 5, Downtown Development Authority Director Al Aceves presented the council with two purchase and sale agreements. 

“On behalf of the Northland Committee, we’re very pleased to present two sale and purchase offers for the Northland property, which comprises about 85% of the total property,” Aceves said at the meeting. 

According to City Council documents, Jonna Development will purchase 10.38 acres of the site along Greenfield Road for $1,808,611 for a retail development. 

The council approved the plan unanimously. 

Councilman Dan Brightwell said the approval of the plan was a “no-brainer.” 

“This is the first bite of the apple,” he said during the meeting. “This particular one, when they came and said they were interested in us, a lightbulb went off.” 

Under the second agreement, Renaissance Place Development will purchase around 80 acres of the Northland site for $8 million.

Renaissance Place Development will use the property for a mixed-use development, which includes a medical campus, housing, retail and a medical marijuna facility. 

The council voted 5-2 to approve the plan. Councilman Donald Fracassi and Councilwoman Tawnya Morris voted no. 

Fracassi said he voted against the plan because he didn’t want the development to turn into a gateway to recreational marijuana, although the city is currently under a moratorium on recreational marijuana establishments. 

“I really believe with this change that Southfield, which is ‘the center of it all,’ will be pot city,” he said during the meeting. 

Morris said she voted no because the plan doesn't reflect the vision laid out by residents for the site. 

"I don't want marijuana growth, distribution and sales on that site. There is a lot that we don't yet know about the marijuana industry, how it will be regulated and how it will impact our communities.  We can do better than that," Morris said in an email.

City Planner Terry Croad said that allowing a medical marijunana facility in the city does not necessarily mean that recreational marijunana will be allowed. 

City Attorney Elizabeth Rae-O’Donnell said that if city officials wish to prevent recreational marijuna in the city, they will have to opt out, according to state law.

“If we do not opt out — I don’t know what council’s pleasure will be — but if we do not opt out of recreational marijunana, the state will be issuing licenses in November.” 

Aceves said a lot of hard work has gone into the plans. 

“Over the course of the last three weeks, the Southfield team — which is comprised of the city administrator, city attorney, city planner and myself — have worked diligently with the developers who purchased the property this evening,” Aceves said. “As you might imagine, the purchase and sale agreement is a very complex document.”

Aceves said approving the purchase and sale agreements is only the beginning of a long process, and it could be close to a year before the property is closed on. 

“We think that there’s still a fair amount of time that we need to sit down with them, and there’s a due diligence involved and other matters that we think (if) the closing of the property goes well, we will be in the 10-month range,” he said. 

Aceves said the city is in negotiations with developers for the remaining 15% of the property. 

“I’ve said it several times: When the steel starts going up and buildings start coming down, all those other developers who have been sitting on the sidelines can come forward at (a) fast and furious pace,” Croad said. 

In 2015, after a judge ruled that the mall would close, city officials announced that they had purchased the mall from the court-ordered receiver for $2.4 million and planned to demolish, remediate and sell the property to a qualified developer.
Soon after, the city hired the firm OHM Advisors to develop a conceptual, market-driven master redevelopment plan for the site. 

Over a series of public meetings in 2016, residents were asked for their input on their desires for the property through surveys and several public input sessions. 

The massive plan included a wheel concept — a radiating pattern of five districts stemming from a central green space and which was to utilize the underground tunnels that run beneath the mall.

The five districts — dubbed shopping, lifestyle, central park, innovation and greenspace — are part of a larger concept of mixed-use development at the site. Major plans for the districts included walkable and safe apartments, student and senior housing, a hotel, medical offices, green space, public space, miscellaneous offices, and retail space.

Call Staff Writer Kayla Dimick at (586) 279-1108.