TAWAS CITY - A developer is proposing a $10 million commercial and condominium project along US-23 in Tawas City, on land now occupied by a half-dozen vacant commercial buildings.
City leaders are cheering the redevelopment plan as a possible solution to a dilapidated downtown area and are asking residents this week in a mail survey if a new city hall should be built as part of the project.
"This is a huge deal," City Manager Mark Moers said Wednesday. "It's taking our downtown district and just revitalizing the whole thing."
Moers said National City based developer R.D. Felcyn Construction Inc. has given city officials a "rough proposal" for a project that would demolish buildings in the central business district to make way for a commercial and retail complex with 25 residential condominium units upstairs.
The builder already has acquired options to purchase some of the properties, Moers said.
The Times was unable to reach a spokesman for Felcyn Construction on Wednesday and the company has not submitted any written plans to the city regarding the development, Moers said.
But Moers said the city has mailed out a survey to about 1,000 homes in Tawas explaining the proposed project in general terms. The survey asks people if they support the plan and with it the concept of building a $750,000 city hall as a separate building next to the new development.
Tawas City's current City Hall is housed in a building next to a Wal-Mart Store. The city purchased the building from the Straits Corp. with the understanding that the company could buy the building back if it desired, Moers said. Straits Corp. intends to exercise that option, he said.
Moers said Tawas City would finance a new city hall with existing tax revenue and through providing in-kind services such as moving water and sewer lines to accommodate the new private development.
But not all city officials favor building a new city hall. Tawas City Mayor Edward Nagy said he feels the cities of Tawas and East Tawas should explore consolidating the two towns. The last time a vote was taken on the issue was 1978, he said.
If there is support for consolidation, it would eliminate the need for a new city hall in Tawas City and that money could be spent on other projects, Nagy said.
"I think this is a good opportunity to raise the question of consolidation and letting the citizens voice their opinions before we spend a great deal of money," he said.
Yet Nagy said he is excited about the proposed retail and condominium project for US-23.
"That's exactly what Tawas City needs and what the area needs," he said.
The mail surveys ask people if they support the concept of the private development and building a new city hall as part of the project, assuming there would be no tax increase. The deadline for returning the surveys to City Hall is March 1.
Moers said businesses in Tawas City's downtown district on US-23 have closed in recent years for a variety of reasons. The vacant buildings include a former bar, an ice cream shop, a business office and a retail furniture store.
The buildings commonly are referred to as the "500 Block" for their street addresses. Moers said at a recent public meeting to discuss city priorities, redeveloping the block emerged as the top issue.
The proposed development could displace one existing business, a firm called Design Financial Group.