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 Holistic Industries is planning to rebuild the former Fairlanes Bowling property into one of the first medical marijuana facilities in Madison Heights.

Holistic Industries is planning to rebuild the former Fairlanes Bowling property into one of the first medical marijuana facilities in Madison Heights.

Photo by Deb Jacques

Site prep begins on Madison Heights’ first medical marijuana facility

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published December 19, 2019

MADISON HEIGHTS — Work has begun on transforming the shuttered Fairlanes Bowling property into a new state-of-the-art medical marijuana facility.

Holistic Industries bills itself as “one of the largest and fastest-growing private vertically integrated cannabis operators in the United States,” and is making an investment of $20 million at the Madison Heights facility, which will become its Michigan headquarters.

The property is located at 29600 Stephenson Highway. The bowling alley there is condemned and has been vacant since 2014. Holistic Industries will remediate the site and build a nearly 65,000-square-foot structure in its place. The project also includes landscaping with above-ground detention ponds that will feed two bioswales using the stormwater runoff on-site.  

A demolition permit was issued last month, and now asbestos is being removed from the interior of the building. The entire project will take 12 to 18 months to complete, although the retail portion of the facility will open sooner, in late summer 2020, with production and processing to follow.  

The facility will feature medical cannabis cultivation, processing and provisioning, and serve as the company’s flagship retail location. The business will bring with it more than 50 job openings for both hourly and salaried employees, according to a news release by the company, with a focus on local hiring.

Holistic is an affiliate of GS Ashley LLC, operating under the brand name Liberty Cannabis. Holistic has already built more than 300,000 square feet of operating space across California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., making it the nation’s largest privately owned multi-state operator.

Holistic partnered with GS Ashley since GS Ashley already had a foothold in Michigan’s marijuana industry, owning and operating one of the original 13 provisioning centers in Ann Arbor. Holistic was looking for a way into the state, and GS Ashley was looking to expand. Holistic’s funding has since converted into a 51% equity stake of GS Ashley.

Holistic is also establishing a community investment fund, “Reaching New Heights,” to give back to various causes in the city. The fund will receive a percentage of the company’s profits, and the donations will be administered by an independent community board.

The company also previously announced plans to sponsor the creation of a community garden called the Liberty Garden and to fund tree plantings to accelerate the downtown district’s right-of-way tree replacement program.

The city’s current direction with regard to medical marijuana followed voter approval of recreational marijuana in November 2018, the idea being that if the majority of voters were OK with recreational marijuana, they would be OK with medical marijuana as well. Medical marijuana was approved by a majority of voters in the state in 2008.

The city of Madison Heights has currently opted out of recreational marijuana, but the City Council did adopt a medical marijuana ordinance that permits two each of industrial-sized growing facilities, product manufacturing factories and patient provisioning centers. The ordinance also allows for four secure transporter businesses and four safety compliance facilities.

Anticipating a high level of interest from businesses, a scoring system was designed to aid with the selection process, one that prioritized safety and development. There were 23 applicants that applied between May 21 and June 25.

Top points were awarded to companies with plans of rehabbing dangerous and shuttered industrial sites, with additional points awarded to those that would vertically integrate multiple operations under one roof.

“We started as a family business and have those values at our core, which is why we wholeheartedly embrace the Madison Heights slogan, ‘This is home,’ and now consider ourselves part of the Madison Heights community,” said Josh Genderson, the CEO of Holistic Industries, in a statement. “We are excited to share in the pride of Madison Heights as we transform this site from a dilapidated space to a community showpiece.”

Madison Heights City Councilman Robert Corbett said that the decision to approve this business was not something that the City Council did hastily.

“The people behind this are very well-funded and professional in their approach, and the site really was an eyesore for the city, so this should be a major improvement,” Corbett said. “And (city) staff has reported to council that they’re very pleased with the detailed approach that the people have taken to the project so far, so that’s encouraging.

“I think that this development is the result of careful preparation by the council and staff in developing standards and methods for bringing this type of industry into the city,” he continued. “Hopefully, this site will be a positive testament to our hard work and effort.”      

Mayor Brian Hartwell said that Holistic Industries and Alternative RX — another medical marijuana business planning to move to town, at the old Madison Athletic Club at 2 Ajax Drive — represent a “broad cycle of growth” the city is undergoing.

“As new families continue to move in around 11 Mile and 12 Mile, we are committed to attracting new retail into the downtown and expanding the BJ’s Wholesale site,” Hartwell said. “As our industrial sites are redeveloped and occupied with new tenants like the medical marijuana industry, this triggers demand such as new hotels and offices. As immigrant families continue to come to Madison Heights for our affordable housing and welcoming environment, we are seeing a surge in demand for diverse restaurants. As our neighboring cities grow on 10 Mile and 11 Mile, we see a contagion of demand within our borders.

“Due to this changing demographic, market demand to operate a business in Madison Heights is scorching hot,” the mayor continued. “Residents might not shop at the new BJ’s or the new medical marijuana provisioning centers, but these developments expand the city’s limited tax base, employ people of all skill levels, clean up our condemned spaces, and give meaning to our motto ‘City of Progress.’ I would ask the skeptics to not lose sight of the forest for the trees. Our city is not defined by one or two developments; it’s defined by 30,000 residents with unique opinions, and 2,000 businesses with unique products and services.”

Madison Heights City Councilman David Soltis said that he has never been in favor of the city’s recent move toward marijuana-related businesses, and he doesn’t anticipate that he ever will be. He said that he has numerous concerns about how these businesses could change the city.

“I think there’s a potential criminal element, because it’s a cash business — they can’t deposit the money in a bank since it’s against federal law still, and so it’s ripe for criminal activity,” Soltis said. “Now we’re going to find ourselves in a situation like we do with the human trafficking in the hotels. Once upon a time, the city rushed to open all these hotels without thinking about the other problems they would create. I hate to see the city going in this direction. There are other cities who opted out because the potential risk is just too great. And there’s no reason to rush into this.”