TROY, Mich. - The city of Troy has talked about and dreamt of a new transit center for 13 years.
In 2000 it signed a contract with Grand Sakwa Development -- it was called a consent agreement -- where in exchange for allowing Grand Sakwa to build a massive and very expensive shopping plaza and condominium complex at Maple and Coolidge roads, the city of Troy would have the option to build its "inter-modal" transit station on land behind what is now called the Midtown Square Mall.
The contract gave Troy 10 years to get the funding for the project and if it didn't get that funding the land -- 2.7 acres -- that abuts Amtrack railroad tracks would revert to the developer.
Well, the decade passed. Troy worked with Birmingham to build the center and then that deal fell through. Then the city of Troy decided it would build once Federal Funds -- $7 million out of the Obama Administration stimulus package -- came through. It did and Troy proceeded.
But there was a problem.
The developer said it owned the property and the city claimed it did. Construction went on and $7 million worth of taxpayer money was spent. All the while Grand Sakwa claimed the city was trespassing, that the city would not cooperate in discussing the situation and before long it decided court action was necessary to force the city to live by the original year 2000 contract it apparently seemed disinterested in following.
The land issue went to court and the city lost. It went to an appeals court and the city lost again. Meanwhile, the city decided it would try and condemn the property and take it over for its transit center purposes. Grand Sakwa fought in court once again with the same demand of the city: Just live up to the contract!
Last week Judge Leo Bowman told the city once and for all the land is owned by Grand Sakwa and the city does not have the right to open its transit center. So there it sits, empty, unused, a $7 million monument to government mismanagement.
Now the city still insists it owns the property, still wants to condemn the property and yet is willing to negotiate a price. But it's not like the city has a lot of money, so it is looking for an appraisal on the site.
Grand Sakwa's attorney, Alan Green, said he wants to negotiate but he has a number of issues he wants to see resolved. Most importantly is the fact that the transit center will operate 24 hours a day, with something on the order of 165 busses running in and out of the center. If you have not been out to the transit center the only way to get to the building that arches the railroad tracks is through the mall or by the condominiums. The city apparently told Grand Sakwa it intends to have no security at the building and has no plans for managing this heavy stream of traffic to the center, nor has it said who is supposed to maintain the roads in that area.
Grand Sakwa's attorney wants more than anything to have a negotiated settlement that allows everyone to coexist peacefully. The Troy City Attorney, Laura Grigg-Bluhm, told Local 4 she would like to negotiate, too. It appears there is room for an agreement, but because the city keeps losing in court it may not be in the best or strongest negotiating position, which may explain why there are no talks scheduled nor court proceedings on the docket either.
The community has waited for 13 years for the transit center. It has been built, and yet everyone is standing around looking at everyone else for some forward momentum. Well, it's clearly high time someone decided to take the lead and solve a clearly solvable problem.
Mass transit is rare enough in southeast Michigan, but to have it silenced in this fashion is simply embarrassing. That's taxpayer money that was used to get that transit center all dressed up for no one to go.
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